With Spring Training less than a month away, it's time for an in-depth look at the Pirates' 2016 roster. This is the second of a six-part series checking in on their current and future options at each position. This one: First base.PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen has been the Pirates' Opening
With Spring Training less than a month away, it's time for an in-depth look at the Pirates' 2016 roster. This is the second of a six-part series checking in on their current and future options at each position. This one: First base.
PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen has been the Pirates' Opening Day center fielder each of the last six seasons. Each of those years, Pittsburgh has sent a different player to first base. There's no better way to say it: First base has been a revolving door for the Pirates.
That rotation will continue in 2016. Out went Pedro Alvarez, whose home run power couldn't make up for his defensive struggles and rising salary. In come a number of other options, all with questions of their own.
• Part 1: Dishing on the catcher's spot
Can John Jaso learn to play first base well enough to slot his effective lefty bat into the lineup? Can righty-swinging Michael Morse recapture his 2014 form? Where does Jason Rogers fit? When will Josh Bell be ready?
On April 3, Jaso likely will become the Pirates' seventh Opening Day first baseman this decade. Pittsburgh signed the former catcher and designated hitter to a two-year, $8 million deal in December, taking a calculated risk that his transition to first base will go more smoothly than Alvarez's.
If it works out, Jaso's bat offers significant upside. As a left-handed hitter, he should help balance out the Pirates' righty-heavy lineup in a division full of right-handed starters. Jaso lacks Alvarez's pop, but over the last four years, he has put together a combined .273/.373/.431 batting line -- good for an OPS of .804, higher than the .767 mark Alvarez posted during that time.
If Jaso has a weakness, it's his career .178 average and .542 OPS against left-handed pitching. That's where Morse comes into play. The Pirates sent Jose Tabata to the Dodgers before the Trade Deadline and received a year and a half of Morse in return.
Morse, 33, is coming off a down year, though his numbers ticked up in 45 games with the Pirates and he's not far removed from a strong 2014 campaign with the Giants. At the very least, Morse -- with a career .273 average and .808 OPS against lefties -- should be a natural platoon partner for Jaso.
But where does that leave Rogers, acquired earlier this offseason from the Brewers in exchange for prospects Keon Broxton and Trey Supak? The 27-year-old isn't regarded as a particularly strong defender, but he showed his potential at the plate last year, batting .296 with an .808 OPS in 86 games.
Rogers may open the year as a right-handed bat off the bench, or perhaps as a utility player who sees time at first and third base or occasionally left field. But the Pirates' best defensive option at first base may once again be Sean Rodriguez, who frequently spent the late innings at first last season.
Meanwhile, Bell will open the year with Triple-A Indianapolis, working on his defense and providing more time for his power to develop, but the switch-hitter could make his big league debut at some point in 2016.
For all the Pirates' questions at first base, the 23-year-old Bell -- MLBPipeline's No. 2 first-base prospect -- appears to be the long-term answer.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.