This isn’t a solution in the sense of it will make Adam LaRoche hit better. I have no idea how to do that. Instead, this a suggested solution for how the Pirates can avoid early season non-productivity at first base.
LaRoche’s splits the last couple of years in March/April, per Baseball Reference:
2007 – .133/.255/.265 with three homers and 11 RBI in 98 PA
2008 – .174/.260/.244 with one homer and five RBI in 96 PA
Everyone who follows the team with any sort of depth is well aware of the above. What can be done to prevent that from happening again? My solution is a simple one – limit his at bats in the early going by replacing him with someone who has a shot at league average production.
Play this person throughout April and then look to put him elsewhere (either a trade or plug a whole somewhere else afield) when LaRoche begins tearing the cover off the ball, which traditionally starts happening sometime in May.
Steve Pearce – the Pirates slugging prospect spent most of his time in the minors as a 1B. However, with LaRoche entrenched, Pearce has seen action primarily in the OF while in the minors last year and had zero appearances at first in his ML action in 2008. Why not let him get his feet wet in 2009 playing the position that he is most comfortable at?
Doug Mientkiewicz – won’t make anyone forget about Willie Stargell with his power. Good glove. Plays with a fire in his belly. Good enough hitter than he will likely collect at least 22 hits if he is given 100 plate appearances in April. LaRoche has just 26 hits in the March/April time frame in 2006 and 2007 combined.
Mark Kotsay – He is a free agent and made an astounding $7 million last year. That’s well more than what he should get as a free agent this year given that he put up pedestrian numbers over the last several years. However, he has been given the “good guy” label and could be/would be decent trade bait at mid-season assuming that the Pirates had gone all out with the youth movement and brought up Andrew McCutchen. So, sign Kotsay. Let him play first in April and move him around the OF to spell people until mid-season and then kiss him goodbye.
Jamie Romak – with a red hot Spring Training, you never know. Maybe he’ll make the club. Give him 50 to 75 low pressure at bats in April to see what he can do. When LaRoche gets hot, let him play full time in the minors.
Brad Eldred – hey he is a minor league free agent. Bring back Big Country for one more shot.
Scott Thorman – why not try out another Brave first baseman? He too is a minor league free agent after spending all of 2008 in the minors.
Chris Richard – another minor league free agent. Spent 2006 at Indy for the Pirates. Hit 26 homers last year in Durham for the Rays AAA affiliate. Will be 35 in June. Has no ML at bats since 2003. Has to be hungry.
Craig Wilson – one victory lap for Craigers before he sails off into the sunset.