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What To Expect: Steve Pearson

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In my early analysis on the hitters that will constitute the Wingnuts’ lineup this season, I had Steve Pearson batting third. That’s generally where managers put their overall best hitter, the one that best combines hitting for average and for power. I didn’t really think about putting Pearson in the No. 3 spot. It just seemed like that’s where he would fit best on this team.

Last year, I wanted to see Pearson bat in the No. 2 spot, and he did for a couple games. I felt like, as a left-handed batter, he could take advantage of the big hole on the first-base side of the infield when the leadoff man reaches first and the first baseman is holding him on. With so many power hitters on last year’s team, Pearson seemed like a good table-setter because he has good plate discipline and usually puts the ball in play.

Among Wingnuts with more than 250 at-bats last season, Pearson had the third-fewest strikeouts (52, behind Mike Thompson and Brenan Herrera) and fourth-most walks (47, behind Greg Porter, Josh Horn and Dustan Mohr). He reduced his strikeouts from the previous season’s total of 57 and had 25 more walks in just 50 more at-bats.

The concern one might have with putting Pearson third in the order is his lack of home-run power. In 754 professional at-bats, Pearson has hit just 11 home runs. He just doesn’t have a home-run swing. His swing is short, he hits the ball where it’s pitched and usually hits hard ground balls or line drivers. Not many home runs.

But Pearson does have power. In the last two seasons, he’s hit 45 doubles, including 21 for the Wingnuts in 2009. He hits gaps, and as he gets older one could expect those doubles to turn into homers. And perhaps they could. I don’t think it would be completely unfair to expect Pearson to at least double his home run total this season.

And if that happens, I think he’s perfect for the No. 3 spot. He’ll be followed by Mario Delgado and Ryan Patterson, more traditional middle-of-the-order hitters. And coming off a season in which he batted .304 with a .386 on-base percentage, Pearson is ready to take the next step. Or at least repeat those numbers. He and Thompson are the only three-year Wingnuts hitters, so Pearson will have more of a leadership role on this team. And he’ll lead by example, because vocal leadership isn’t really his personality.

I’d understand if Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper didn’t bat Pearson third to start the season. He’s not prototypical for that spot. But he can do so much at the plate that you want him batting in the first inning and setting up the power hitters.

Season projection: 363 at-bats, 112 hits, .309 average, 4 home runs, 62 RBIs, 27 doubles, 5 triples, .444 slugging percentage, 40 walks, .385 on-base percentage.

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