Versatility Allows for the Best Bats in the Lineup

Something the Pirates have focused on since Ben Cherington came on board is the ability to play multiple positions. It has helped other teams build a winner and insulates the club from injuries to a degree.

We’ve just watched Hoy Park play 4 different positions in 4 starts, and he’s played each well. Rumor on the street is we’ll see a fifth as he is supposed to jump in at second base next. This is an extreme case of versatility but it also ensures the ability to make sure he has a place to play so they can keep his bat in the lineup.

Rodolfo Castro has played 4 different positions already in his young career and again, it’s allowed him to bounce all over the diamond so he continues to get his bat in the lineup.

None of this means Ke’Bryan Hayes is less than these guys because he always plays 3rd and it’s certainly not that he couldn’t handle another spot, but sometimes a guy gets so good at a spot you won’t want to move them.

This kind of versatility is going to really matter as the club continues to build. Tucupita Marcano is going to offer the same type of thing and what we’ll see as this continues is players no longer, for the most part, being trapped by position.

This will help the Pirates get to the point where the best bats get to MLB instead of watching a guy crush AAA and have no choice but to leave him rot because he’s blocked in MLB.

Adding to the advantage the Pirates are trying to build, the probability of the DH going universal should give even more flexibility to make sure the best offense is available when they’re ready.

Listen, none of this is going to strike out the side 3 innings in a row, that’s another matter, but the philosophy should look something like what the Cubs did nearly a decade ago and still did even this year. Kris Bryant never had one spot, bounced everywhere. Wherever they needed him to play, whenever they needed it.

Here’s an aspect that goes under the radar. This takes an unselfish player. One who probably knows he isn’t going to win many gold gloves. One who knows people are going to toss around labels like “utility guy” or “spot starter” and doesn’t care, because it helps the team. All Star voting will be tough since nobody knows what you are. Do they vote for you at third base when they’ve seen you play center against their club?

To be fair, it’s something we’ve seen before here even in the form of Erik Gonzalez, thing is he was used more to get people rest as opposed to trying to find a way to get his bat in the lineup. Now if guys like that can hit, man you really have something there.

These are the types being brought in. Just this trade deadline the Pirate grabbed Hoy Park, Marcano and Michael Chavis who can also play just about anywhere.

Follow me here if you will.

When I was raising my kids, I always wanted them to know how to cook, and not just heat up ingredients, I wanted them to know if they had flour they could make any number of things.

That’s what Ben is doing here. Instead of buying a loaf of bread for Derek Shelton, he’s instead making sure Derek has the flour so he can make just about anything he wants.

If a player is injured sure it won’t be great, but having 3 or 4 guys who can play there for a stretch is far better than calling up that guy from AAA who maybe isn’t ready because he plays at an area of need.

The stigma of bouncing around isn’t what it used to be in MLB, but for a market that hasn’t really seen it and still refers to everyone who does it as “the next Josh Harrison” is really underselling what’s happening here.

We could start to really see this pay off as early as this season should Marcano and Chavis join Park in MLB. Prepare for some very interesting configurations and more than anything prepare for the difference between a guy like Phillip Evans trying to be versatile and a guy like Park actually excelling everywhere.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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