Welcome to the final installment of the Pittsburgh Pirates All-Decade team (2010-2019).
Today we will be covering both the starting lineup and bench of this team. This decade, the Pirates ranked 22nd in the MLB in position player fWAR (154.0). During their three year playoff stretch, they ranked third (78.2).
- LF Starling Marte: 2012-present (24.1 fWAR .287/.341/.452 in 3,986 PA) - Perhaps, in your mind, Marte was never able to reach his full potential. He’s never had the 30-30 season. Plate discipline and on base skills have always been an issue. Maybe you think he makes too many mistakes on the bases. Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Marte has been the second best position player for the Pirates this decade. I’ve said this many times, but he is what he is, a three to four win player. For years, Marte’s elite defense and arm has been a delight to watch. This decade, he led the team in steals (239) and ranked third in home runs (108).
- CF Andrew McCutchen: 2009-17 (42.3 fWAR .291/.380/.489 in 5,336 PA) - It goes without saying that McCutchen is the Pirates’ player of the decade. It’s not close. He is the best Pirate since Barry Bonds. His total fWAR of 46.5 ranks fourth among all position players this decade. During his time in Pittsburgh, McCutchen meant everything to the Pirates. He was the key cog in the machine. One MVP. Four top-five MVP finishes. Five All-Star appearances. The resume speaks for itself. This decade, McCutchen led the Pirates in hits (1339), doubles (266), home runs (191), runs (740), RBI (671), and walks (631), among many other things. There is a case for McCutchen to reach the Hall of Fame. At age 33, he probably needs about three or four more productive seasons to make a push. But there is a case.
- 1B Josh Bell: 2016-present (3.8 fWAR .265/.354/.477 in 1,968 PA) - In terms of fWAR, Bell hasn’t done all that much in his young career. Having said that, look at the list of other first basemen this decade. It’s not great. Can I interest you in Garrett Jones (I did love me some G.I. Jones), Gaby Sanchez, or John Jaso instead? No? How about Ike Davis, Lyle Overbay, or Travis Ishikawa? In 2019, Bell had a Stargell-esque season offensively. That alone is enough to be starting first baseman on this team. He will bat third and bash the home runs.
- 2B Neil Walker: 2009-2015 (15.8 fWAR .273/.338/.433 in 3,386 PA) - The Pittsburgh kid. Considering the pressures of performing in your hometown city, Walker was solid in his time in Pittsburgh. From 2011-15, he averaged an fWAR of 2.8. His total fWAR this decade ranked third among Pirate position players. Sure, his range at second base wasn’t the greatest and he struggled in the playoffs, but Walker played a large role in the Pirates overall success. Trading him for Jon Niese was a crime.
- C Russell Martin: 2013-14 (11.7 fWAR .256/.362/.401 in 966 PA) - Martin only spend two seasons in Pittsburgh but his impact was enormous. His fWAR ranked fourth among Pirate position players this decade. His games played ranked 27th. Martin was arguably the best free agent signing of the decade. At the time of his signing, his elite defense and pitch framing wasn’t seen as valuable as it would be today. Martin was the heart and soul of the Pirates in his two seasons here. He provided the offense in the 2013 Wild Card win with two dingers. He always got on base. In the end, Martin was able to cash in with a large free agent contract with the Blue Jays in the winter of 2014 (five years and $82 million).
- 3B Pedro Alvarez: 2010-15 (6.6 fWAR .236/.309/.441 in 2,784 PA) - I’ve always had a soft spot for El Toro. When he was drafted out of Vanderbilt in 2008, I had dreams of 40 home run seasons. Obviously that never came. That said, Alvarez did produce on a lesser level. In 2013, he led the NL in home runs with 36. He was second among Pirates in home runs this decade with 131. Alvarez didn’t hit for average. He didn’t walk as much as he should have. His defense was abysmal and he literally forgot how to throw to first base. But man, Alvarez hit some tape shot dingers.
- RF Gregory Polanco: 2014-present (7.9 fWAR .252/.320/.422 in 2,664 PA) - Like Alvarez, Polanco hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. He was the 13th ranked prospect in 2014. He’s always had the physical tools. Because of injuries though, things haven’t worked out like the Pirates had hoped. There’s still time though as Polanco just turned 28. In terms of this past decade, he still ranks seventh in fWAR. He has shown blips of reaching his full potential in the past. Like the first base position, there just aren’t any other candidates to take this spot. Polanco has had right field on lock for the past half decade and will most likely hold the spot down for a few more years unless traded.
- SS Jordy Mercer: 2012-18 (7.7 fWAR .256/.316/.383 in 2,996 PA) - Mercer takes this spot on sheer volume of work alone. And honestly, he was fine in his time in Pittsburgh. His strong arm at times made up for a lack of range at shortstop. He hit well enough for a guy usually batting eighth. I have no complaints for Mercer in his time in Pittsburgh. He was fine.
Josh Harrison: 2011-18 (11.1 fWAR .277/.317/.408 in 3,012 PA) - Although he’s on the bench, the J-Hay kid isn’t really a bench guy on this team. He’s a super utility guy who would start four to five starts a week. During his peak years in Pittsburgh, Harrison filled that role flawlessly. He was an All-Star twice. His teammates loved him. Whether he was getting out of baserunning jams, or making diving plays, Harrison brought a certain energy that propelled the team.
Francisco Cervelli: 2015-19 (11.3 fWAR .264/.362/.374 in 1,734 PA) - Vita Bella! Once Martin left in free agency after the 2014 season, it seemed like an impossible task to replace his production at the catcher position. Cervelli did just that in 2015 when had a 5.9 fWAR. Although he was often injured in the seasons after, Cervelli was still loved by the fans. His walk-up song is wildly entertaining. His upbeat energy was electric. Two years of elite Russell Martin was a tough act to follow. For a time, Cervelli filled those shoes seamlessly.
Adam Frazier: 2016-present (5.7 fWAR .279/.342/.420 in 1,574 PA) - Frazier ranked tenth in fWAR among Pirate position players this decade. He has improved every year since being a pro. His fielding was once a question but those questions were answered this past season being that he was Gold Glove nominee. Frazier has solid contact skills while also having surprising pop with the bat. At the end of the day, he is a nice above-average player that would fit with any team. Like Harrison, Frazier can fit a utility role on this team.
David Freese: 2016-18 (4.6 fWAR .270/.355/.403 in 1,260 PA) - Freese was a last minute Spring Training signee of the Pirates in 2016. The former World Series hero brought a veteran presence in his time in Pittsburgh. He never saw team success here but was pretty decent nonetheless.
Sean Rodriguez: 2015-16, 2018 (0.8 fWAR .230/.304/.399 in 861 PA) - Honestly, this might be a selfish add on my part. It’s not like Rodriguez was ever great in Pittsburgh. But it has to be. He had his moments. 2016 was a good year for him. For better or for worse, no Pirate All-Decade team is complete without SeanRod.
- Corey Dickerson
- Jung Ho Kang
- Bryan Reynolds
- Garrett Jones
- Jose Tabata
- Chris Stewart
- Matt Joyce
- Ronny Cedeno
- Travis Snider
- Clint Barmes
Names that made me laugh for no reason (this is not a slight)
- Alex Presley
- Delwyn Young
- Matt Hauge aka “the hit collector”
- Drew Sutton
- Matt Diaz (He gave Andrew McCutchen batting lessons, you know)
- Jayson Nix
- Rod Barajas
- Akinori Iwamura
- Ryan Church
- Brandon Inge