This is the 4th in a series of articles that will take look at the current state and the future state of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The articles will be broken out into three parts: what should happen, what will happen and what could happen. We'll take a look at each position in the franchise covering where they are, where they will be and where they should be.
Where there was a plethora of options for right field, center is not quite as deep:
Jose Castillo (? according to ESPN)
Duffy started the season as THE center fielder. McCutchen is the future. Bautista has played there the last two seasons. Jose Castillo is listed on ESPN, but I cant see that one. Nady has played center this year. McLouth has been steady since Duffy went down and Davis was traded.
What Should Happen
I called for McLouth, early in the preseason, to be the starting center fielder.
Duffy has been fragile his entire career.
Bautista, as I said about right field, needs to stay at third.
Castillo would be better in a corner outfield spot or at short.
Nady is too tentative when he plays center.
McCutchen isn't ready yet, it will likely 2009 before he will take over an outfield spot.
Where is this one leaving us? McLouth, based on the current roster, is the best choice for now. He simply plays a good defense, case in point are the plays he has made on caroms off the wall in the last couple games. The more he plays, the better he gets defensively, something to do with getting comfortable with the position.
McLouth has proven he hits well when getting regular playing time. His base running, more precisely his base stealing success rate, makes him dangerous every time he gets on base. He may not have the speed nor range of Duffy, but he stays healthy and has more power. McLouth can get on base at a better rate and with more consistency than Duffy, making him a better fit at the top of the order. One area McLouth needs to improve is his aggressiveness when on first by taking second early in the count and getting in scoring position.
Duffy would be best served as a 4th outfielder or used to bring some additional talent to the team. A leadoff hitter with his speed is enticing to many teams. He reminds me of Scott Podsednik in durability and speed.
What Will Happen
McCutchen will be given every opportunity in spring to take the position, hopefully he is not rushed to Pittsburgh. McLouth will start the 2008 season as the starting center fielder. Duffy will be his backup and McCutchen will get a full season in AAA.
What Could Happen
Don't expect a trade for a center fielder nor a free agent signing with McCutchen so close to the majors. If a deal would happen, McCutchen would be moved to a corner outfield position depending on who was landed. Too much is being banked on McCutchen for them to make a deal that blocks him.
McLouth could prove he is an everyday center fielder, he is only 25, and that could allow the Pirates to make a shocking deal. More on that in coming days.
I'd give McLouth a 80% chance of being handed the job going into spring training. He would get a 90% probability of starting the season as the center fielder.
McCutchen will get every opportunity to take an outfield position. He will have a late season call up likely this season and in 2008. I'll give him a 5% chance of taking the centerfield job in 2008. Odds on 2009 are about 50% right now, depending on his progression in AAA in 2008 that percentage will either rise significantly or stay where it is. He will be up for good at the latest sometime in 2009, the question is when.
Duffy has a very slight chance of being the starting center fielder let alone remaining on the Pirates. I'll give him a 10% chance of starting in center and a 50% chance of being traded. A trade could be the best thing to happen to him, he likely needs a change of scenery and a good trainer to keep him healthy. His defense is too good, if his bat could only come around on a consistent basis and he could stay healthy he would be an ideal option on almost any team.