Third Base: Jhonny Peralta or Jung Ho Kang
Third base seems like the biggest source for questions for both teams. The St. Louis Cardinals will have a positional battle on their hands with Peralta and Gyorko looking for starting time. Who gets the nod? For the Pirates, the biggest question is where is Kang’s health? Following his recent situations with alcohol, can the Pirates afford to play Kang every day?
As I mentioned above the Cardinals have to decide between Peralta and Gyorko. Fellow Redbird Rants contributor, Trevor Hooth, gave us an early look at who he thinks will win job to being the season. If I make the decision, I like Jhonny Peralta. So for the sake of the rest of this comparison I’ll assume Peralta is the every day third baseman.
I think Peralta’s experience on the field and at the plate give him the advantage coming into the season. While his age and last year’s injury is something to be concerned about, Peralta has been on the record saying that he is 100% healthy and ready to compete for the 3B job.
In the three seasons Peralta has been with Cardinals, he has proven to be a main ingredient to the lineup’s success. Unfortunately, last year was derailed due to injury. However, prior to his injury, Peralta was arguably a top 5 SS.
As a Cardinal, Johnny has hit .260, averaged fifteen HR and 58 RBI. While not exactly eye popping, Peralta’s steady contribution played a major part in the Cardinals success throughout the seasons and playoffs.
If he is indeed healthy, I like him to bounce back. Because of the similarity to Yadier Molina’s thumb injury, I’m a little worried about Peralta’s power. Remember that Molina hit twenty-two HR the year before his thumb injury. The year after that he barely hit any. So it might be plausible to say that Peralta’s power may not be there.
Defensively, Peralta has always been a solid fielder and will continue to do so. At age 35, many wonder whether he can field his position. He has a career dWAR of 6.5 While he may not be the ideal candidate for the Cardinals at 3B, he has logged plenty of innings at the position to field it cleanly.
I believe the Pirates will counter with Jung Ho Kang at 3B. He has been rather confusing at the plate. His rookie year, Kang batted .287 with 15 HR and fifty-eight RBI. That’s pretty good for someone that came out of the Korean League to MLB. However, 2016 was a major regression.
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While he improved his HR and RBI total, twenty-one and sixty-two respectively, it came at a steep price. Kang sacrificed 30 points on his average and ended up batting .255 on the year. There is sacrificing average for power, but not at that rate. He will need to find the happy medium to return to his rookie season numbers. Also, is it me or does he always hit a home run off the Cardinals?
Defensively, Kang has never had a season above 1 when it comes to Defensive Runs Saved. Last year, he actually was around -.1. While not egregious, there is certainly room to improve. He has a pretty good arm and similar range to Peralta.
While Kang’s age, 29, is not much of a factor, his outside habits are. It’s possible that the habits had during the offseason are the same ones that caused him to have a poor season in 2016. He may have checked into a rehab center, but until I see him in game his regression speaks louder and louder.
I like Peralta over Kang on this one. Peralta has the experience on Kang and defensively is not, and has not been, a liability to the Cardinals. Now, if Jedd Gyorko beats out Peralta I would take Gyorko over Kang. Mainly citing the same reasons. Gyorko and Kang are similar players now, but I like his defense better.
So at the end of this one, the Cardinals take the infield 4-1. They are a better team than the Pirates. The latest projections show that the Cardinals will win right around 88 games where the Pirates will win around 81. Although it’s not far off from each other, I believe the Pirates projections are a little generous. Go Cards!