2017 Pirates: McCutchen moves to right, Marte takes over in center

Joe Demeis, Staff Writer

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Clint Hurdle announced on Saturday that there will be some changes in outfield positioning for the 2017 season. Andrew McCutchen will be moved from center field to right field. Starling Marte will take over center field, and Gregory Polanco will be moving over to left.

According to MLB.com, Andrew McCutchen, former NL MVP and a Gold Glove Winner, has manned center in Pittsburgh since 2009. He has never played right field in his career.

Over the past three years, McCutchen’s defensive ability has been on the decline; it bottomed out last year. He was one of, if not the worst outfielder in 2016. McCutchen has posted a minus-47 defensive runs saved rating.

Marte’s rating was plus-50 in that span. Cutch cost his team 28 runs, which was last among all MLB players. Additionally, his Ultimate Zone Rating was minus-18.7. Infielder Alexei Ramirez was the only player to have a lower Ultimate Zone Rating.

The Pirates put McCutchen on the trade block this off season, but no team proposed a deal that caught the organization’s interest. After not being persuaded to move McCutchen, the Pirates believed that a shift in outfield positioning would give them the best chance in competing in their division this season.

McCutchen is said to be better off in right field. It’s the easiest to handle out of the three outfield positions at PNC Park. There’s less space to cover compared to right field. It’s 320 feet down the line and 375 feet in the right-center field gap. Left field extends 410 feet to the notch between the seats and bullpen in left-center. It’s the deepest in the majors. Even though McCutchen’s arm could be an issue in right field, according to Statcast, he is more effective when moving to his right.

On the other hand, Starling Marte’s shift to center field is well-deserved. He has a very strong arm proven by his 33 outfield assists over the past two seasons. He also has incredible range and can track down a lot of baseballs, hence his 19 defensive runs saved last year.

Gregory Polanco should fit in just fine manning left field. He filled in for Marte last year when he was injured. Over the past two years, Polanco had 23 outfield assists.

According to the TribLIVE, originally, McCutchen said that there was no reason for him to move from center field at the end of last year. Now he is very optimistic and thankful to be playing the game he loves, despite the position change, “I’m just honored to be playing. I’m happy that I’m still here. I’ve got seven amazing years here in a Bucs uniform. Center field, wherever it’s at — right, left — I’m just happy that I’m still playing.”

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