When I’m writing up the Prospect Guide each year, I’m usually taking notes on which players could play at which level during the upcoming season. In most cases, the only way to accurately do this is to figure out where everyone could be playing, and that is no easy task.
At the end of Spring Training, I always have a good idea of where everyone will start the season. That’s mostly due to the fact that I’ve seen the rosters all Spring, and I’ve seen who is playing on what team. Even with that information, I still need to confirm that certain players are going to be on a specific team before I can run a preview. So you can only imagine how difficult the process becomes when projecting a roster before Spring Training even begins.
I wanted to throw together projected rosters for each of the full-season minor league teams, but in reality that is impossible. The Pirates have at least 150 players who are competing for 100 spots between Indianapolis, Altoona, Bradenton, and West Virginia. A lot of those players will be released during Spring Training, but until then, it’s impossible to know every person that will make a squad. So instead of putting together rosters, I decided to go with what we know at this point by showing who stands a good chance of making a specific team, and who is battling for a spot on that team.
Below is an early look at the Indianapolis Indians as we head into Spring Training. A lot of the Indianapolis roster decisions will be shaped by what happens in major league camp. That said, there aren’t too many surprises projected from big league camp. Here are the projections, along with the position battles to watch this Spring.
C – Elias Diaz
1B – Stetson Allie
2B – Alen Hanson
SS – Justin Sellers
3B – Deibinson Romero
LF – Jaff Decker
CF – Mel Rojas
RF – Keon Broxton
DH – Tony Sanchez
Bench – Jose Tabata, Steve Lombardozzi, Gift Ngoepe, Wilkin Castillo
Battling For a Spot – Gorkys Hernandez, Gustavo Nunez, Brent Morel
Analysis – Out of all the levels that will be projected this week, this Triple-A lineup was the easiest one. The difficult part comes with the bench. As far as the lineup goes, I think there will be some flexibility. Tony Sanchez should get time at first base and behind the plate. Jose Tabata should get time in the outfield. I could see Steve Lombardozzi getting a lot of time around the field as a utility player.
As for the position battles, these were really difficult calls. Gustavo Nunez and Gift Ngoepe are basically the same player when you consider what they bring to the table — strong defense up the middle and no bat. I went with Ngoepe, but that’s hardly set in stone. Gorkys Hernandez could very well make the team, but there is no one from the Decker/Rojas/Broxton/Tabata group that I could see him replacing. I definitely think Wilkin Castillo makes the team, since having a third catcher allows some flexibility with Sanchez. That leaves Morel out, and the Pirates seem to like him.
Everyone in the lineup seems safe, but the bench spots could be up in the air. Complicating the matter is Pedro Florimon. He’s out of options, and I could see him getting cut from the major league team. If he were to clear waivers, he’d be my pick as the starting shortstop, and Sellers would be a guarantee for the bench. That would put Ngoepe/Nunez in question, with Ngoepe likely going down to Altoona (more on that tomorrow), and Nunez going to extended Spring Training or getting released/traded.
SP – Nick Kingham
SP – Adrian Sampson
SP – Brandon Cumpton
SP – Clayton Richard
SP – Casey Sadler
Analysis – Jameson Taillon will eventually get one of these rotation spots, but on Opening Day he will likely be in extended Spring Training, where the Pirates can have much more control over his rehab process. Their focus seems to be starting him off slow so that he has innings in September. I put Sadler in the rotation for now, although that spot could go to several guys projected for the bullpen. All of the guys in the rotation have roster spots locked down.
RP – Bobby LaFromboise
RP – Chris Volstad
RP – Rob Scahill
RP – Collin Balester
RP – Jeremy Bleich
RP – Deolis Guerra
RP – Brad Lincoln
Battling For a Spot – Blake Wood, Josh Wall, Wilfredo Boscan, Charlie Leesman, Adam Miller
Analysis – Very few of these guys have roster spots locked down. The guys I think are safe include Bobby LaFromboise and Rob Scahill. Collin Balester also seems like more of a lock, since the Pirates waited on his rehab all year last year, then re-signed him as a minor league free agent. I doubt they’d wait a whole year just to cut him. As for the rest of them, that’s going to be a battle. Some of these guys will go to extended Spring Training, waiting for an injury in the top levels to open up a spot. Some will be traded or released if another opportunity opens up elsewhere.
This is an area where the major league situation could really complicate matters. There is currently a battle for the final bullpen spots between Jared Hughes, Stolmy Pimentel, John Holdzkom, and Arquimedes Caminero. I project that at least four of the seven bullpen spots in the majors are spoken for, leaving three open spots. That would be two open spots if Charlie Morton is healthy on Opening Day, sending one of Jeff Locke or Vance Worley to the bullpen. At least one of the Hughes, Pimentel, Holdzkom, Caminero group will have to go to Triple-A, and eventually, two of them will have to go.
Hughes and Holdzkom both have options, but also had the best results last year. Pimentel and Caminero are both out of options, but both have amazing stuff. Holdzkom also has amazing stuff, so I’d give him the inside track. The Pirates will then have to decide between Hughes, a safe pick, or Pimentel/Caminero, who are high risk and potentially higher reward than Hughes.
As for Triple-A, any of these guys would be locks for the bullpen, which means there would be 1-2 fewer roster spots. That means only two of the Volstad, Bleich, Lincoln, Guerra, Wood, Wall, Boscan, Leesman, Miller group will have roster spots.
The biggest battle in the majors looks to be for the bullpen. Likewise, the biggest battle for Triple-A roster spots appears to be in the bullpen as well.