Pittsburgh Pirates Position Grades - 1st and 3rd Base

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It won't be an easy road for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season.  While I do believe success is within the realm of possibility within the next 2-4 seasons, I do not believe we are there just yet.  There is simply too much youth on this team as of now, but that’s okay, because it looks like very talented youth. 

However, instead of just assuming this particular 2022 roster isn’t talented enough for success yet, let’s work through the position groups together over the next week or two.

You can find all of Antonio's position group gradings as they roll out over time here: 

Pittsburgh Pirate Grades

1st Base - C

So I actually touched on this in a previous article, when I graded both catcher and the DH options for the Pirates this upcoming season.  The problem with that is the designated hitters are also going to be the first basemen and vice versa.  However, the Pirates have so few options at catcher on the roster, I needed something to match with that group for the previous article.  However, the more I thought about it, and worked through these position groups, I also now would consider Michael Chavis as primarily a corner infielder and DH. 

For all of these reasons, I am going to poach the first base/DH section from my previous article, but add more content on Michael Chavis.  So if some of this sounds familiar, I’d like to thank you for reading my article on Sunday night, and you may skip to the 3rd Base section of the article.  Here we go!
First off, whether you were against it or not, it’s very fun to have the opportunity to discuss the possible designated hitter options for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The fun starts to end, however, when you consider the options they actually have this season.

Also, those who are going to take the lion's share of the DH at-bats, I also expect to play most of the first base innings as well.  So we will consider both the first base and DH position groups as the same with this grade.  The three players I expect to get the most time at these spots are Yoshi Tsutsugo, Daniel Vogelbach, and Michael Chavis.  

From a pure fan perspective, I love Daniel Vogelbach and Yoshi Tsutsugo.  I think they both have very root-able qualities, and I’m pulling for both of them to have great success.  Vogelbach reminds us with his body type that with determination and hard work, we can all be professional “athletes”.  Yoshi is a former Nippon Professional Baseball league All-Star and is now trying to have similar success in Major League Baseball.

However, Yoshi’s foreign success has not translated yet to steady production in America and Vogelbach really only has one good full season under his belt.  Tsutsugo has less than 400 major league at-bats to this point, and he did have a great end to the 2021 season.  Hopefully he carries that same bat into the 2022 season.  

Vogelbach showed in 2019, with a 30-homerun season, that when given full-time duties, he can provide some power.  They both also walk more than the average power hitter, and have the ability to get on base.  Vogelbach was 5th in the league in base on balls in 2019.
Michael Chavis has many root-able qualities as well, and showed flashes of great hitting when he came over in a trade for left-handed reliever Austin Davis at last season’s trade deadline.  Unfortunately, flashes of greatness appears to be Chavis’ MO.  He stormed onto the scene in 2019, when he hit 18 homeruns in just 95 games as a rookie. 

However, since then, in his next 85 games, he has just eight homeruns in 267 at-bats.  He also is batting just .229 with a .645 OPS across that span.  That is not good for anyone, and very bad for someone who was seen as a “power hitter”.  What Chavis does bring to the roster is depth because he can play every position on the diamond aside from pitcher and catcher.  However, with his versatility I wouldn’t be afraid to give him a shot.  He will provide much needed rest days for Pirates corner infielders.
I will be bringing cautious optimism into this position group with both of the top options possessing some power.  We will also be tweeting about every Vogel-bomb and every Yoshi-bomb on @GoldLotSports. 

However, all three of these guys have shown they can slump, and the platoon situation may further stifle the success.  That cautious optimism combined with the negative variables discussed above earns this position group a C-grade. 

3rd Base – B+

Ke’Bryan Hayes is an A-grade ball player, and has the ceiling of an A+.  What I worry about here is his tendency to get injured.  And if he does sustain an injury that sees him out for a significant amount of time, the options at third base are not great.

That being said, I really expect a breakout year from Hayes if he does stay healthy, but not in the way I think most fans do.  I believe Hayes got too much of a reputation for power when he hit five homeruns in 95 plate appearances in 2020.  However, I see Hayes as more of a singles and doubles type guy.  There’s no reason if he stays healthy for most of the season he can’t bat in the .300’s.  Hayes rivals Reynolds as the best hitter on the team.

Hayes is also the best defensive third baseman in the league, hands down.  I don’t have the exact stat, but he had the most defensive runs saved at his position last season, and he only played 96 games.  More than guys like Nolan Arenado who played a full season.  Who needs exact numbers when you can just say “most”, right?  I see no reason, other than injury, that Hayes could not collect multiple Gold Glove Awards in his career. 

Also, there is one backup third base option that could come to fruition out of camp.  I talked about Diego Castillo when grading the Pirates middle infield options.  He has had a fantastic Spring Training, and has shown the ability to hit the ball out of the park consistently.  

Now, currently if he makes the big leagues out of Spring, most see him as the everyday second baseman.  However, if Hayes misses any time, there’s no reason Castillo could not fill in at third.  He would keep this position in the B+ range, if his spring performance translates into the regular season.
The other player who may get some time at third base is the aforementioned Michael Chavis.  However, this would be more the just give Hayes the occasional rest day.  I see Hayes and Castillo both as better options than Chavis.