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Potanko: Versatility Paying Off for Pirates So Far



Pittsburgh Pirates, Ben Cherington

PITTSBURGH- Since Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington stepped foot in his role, we’ve seen a lot of prospects get shuffled around and play different positions.

It seems like the Pirates and Cherington love players with versatility. A couple of players that come to mind are Connor Joe, Jack Suwinski, Tucupita Marcano, Jared Triolo, and even Ji-Hwan Bae.

Bae has jumped from center field to both middle-infield positions, Triolo has switched from third base to shortstop a ton, and even Marcano has flip-flopped between shortstop and second base.

While versatility can be a good thing, it can also prove to be damaging to a player’s development.

The Pirates and Cherington need to tread lightly with their versatility infatuation and realize there are some prospects who are better left alone in terms of defensive positioning.

Sunday morning, Cherington made his weekly appearance on his radio show on 93.7 The Fan and discussed the Pirates’ love for versatility.

One of the biggest aspects they talked about was when to leave a player at one position, like Ke’Bryan Hayes.

“There are cases where it just makes sense that a guy is going to play a particular spot, Ke’Bryan being one of them. He’s so elite at third base. It’s like having a weapon defensively at third base, so you just leave it.”

Cherington then dove into the reason the Pirates like to have their players play multiple positions.

“There are really two reasons why we’d have guys exposed to different spots. One is that it can literally help someone be better prepared to help our major league team. I think Marcano is a good example of this. Marcano, when we acquired him, played more second base than anywhere else last year. He was originally a shortstop when he signed as an amateur, but we kept exposing him to it in the minors last year, and sure enough, situation opens up with Cruz getting hurt, and Marcano has stepped up.”

Cherington continued.

“The other benefit we believe is that from a skill development point in our opinion, being challenged at different positions can make that player better at their original position. Think about Nick Gonzales. Nick’s played a lot of second base, and he’s comfortable there, but he’s gotten to play some short and third, and by virtue of the challenge that gives Nick, to play short and third, we think that makes him an even better defender at second.”

Cherington mentioned that it’s a case-by-case basis, and there will be times when a player stays at one spot, and there are lots of variables to it.

“The theory of skill development is you want to keep challenging and do things that are uncomfortable as part of getting better,” said Cherington. “Sometimes moving around the dirt or in the outfield is a part of that.”

With guys like Triolo and Gonzales on the doorstep of the majors, anyway they can get into the lineup would benefit them and the Pirates, so versatility would actually work out in those cases.

It remains to be seen how effective this mindset can be throughout an entire major league season, but as of now, it seems to be paying off for the Pirates and Cherignton.

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