Now that the Pittsburgh Pirates have reached a contract agreement with Jung-ho Kang we can let our imaginations run wild dreaming of the various infield combinations the Pirates could employ in the near future. Even prior to the Kang signing the Pirates had Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Josh Harrison, and Jordy Mercer – four accomplished major league players to man the infield. At this point it is too soon to say what kind of major league player Jung-ho Kang will be, or even if he is capable of being a passable major league hitter at all. But it is safe to say that the Pirates are going to give him every chance to prove he can play at this level. The $16 million dollar commitment the Pirates made to bring the 28 year old Korean SS to Pittsburgh ensures that. The Pirates are not locked into any specific position with Kang. Every position in the infield is a possibility. That leaves a plethora of infield configurations the Pirates might consider. Let’s take a look some of the possibilities.
1) 1B Pedro Alvarez, 2B Neil Walker, 3B Josh Harrison, SS Jordy Mercer, Bench Sub Jung-ho Kang: This is the most likely configuration to open the season. It would be a huge risk to upset what already looks to be a strong infield by allowing the unproven Kang to immediately force out one of the regular infielders. Using Kang in a bench role will give the Pirates time to evaluate his acclimation to American baseball as well as provide an opportunity to trial him at several positions.
2) 1B Pedro Alvarez, 2B Neil Walker, 3B Josh Harrison, SS Jung-ho Kang, Bench Sub Jordy Mercer: Kang was a SS in the KBO. If he proves he can play the position in the MLB and can outhit Mercer we could see this alignment before too long.
3) 1B Pedro Alvarez, 2B Jung-ho Kang, 3B Josh Harrison, SS Jordy Mercer, trade bait Neil Walker: If Kang can hit enough to warrant every day ABs Neil Walker could find himself on the trading block. Walker only has two seasons left before he is a free agent and his defensive abilities are declining. It might make sense to move him at midseason and institute this infield configuration.
4) 1B Pedro Alvarez, 2B Josh Harrison, 3B Jung-ho Kang, SS Jordy Mercer, trade bait Neil Walker: Same as above only with Harrison moving to 2B and Kang playing 3B.
5) 1B Neil Walker, 2B Jung-ho Kang, 3B Josh Harrison, SS Jordy Mercer, trade bait Pedro Alvarez: If Pedro gets off to another disappointing start to the season it could make sense to trade him and transition Walker to 1B.
6) 1B Neil Walker, 2B Josh Harrison, 3B Jung-ho Kang, SS Jordy Mercer, trade bait Pedro Alvarez: Same as above only with Harrison moving to 2B and Kang playing 3B.
7) 1B Pedro Alvarez, 2B Neil Walker, 3B Jung-ho Kang, SS Jordy Mercer, Bench Sub Josh Harrison: Is Josh Harrison really an all-star 3B? Maybe the clock strikes midnight for Cinderella and JHay turns back into the bench player he was destined to be before having an unlikely career year in 2014. In that case Kang would replace Harrison at 3B and Harrison would then once again become a versatile player off the bench.