First Pitch: Positional Depth Leads to Some Roster Crunches in Indianapolis

Organizational depth is a great thing for preparation for injuries at the Major League level. However, it is not always the best thing for getting prospects needed reps to allow them to grow and develop.

Indianapolis has a few of these situations.

First, is the recently publicized log jam at the catcher position with up-and-coming Elias Diaz and the recently optioned odd man out Tony Sanchez. When Sanchez joined the Triple-A squad, it was announced by management that it was going to be an every two-day rotation behind the plate, with the odd man out serving as the DH many of those nights.

With the schedule conducive to this plan – with many AL affiliates coming up – does it really benefit either player in their growth?

One of the strengths for Diaz is his ability as a polished defensive catcher with a strong arm and blocking ability. However, with this rotation, he loses valuable experience in calling games and getting to know the tendencies of the prospect starting pitchers.

For Sanchez, much was made about his improved throwing ability in Spring Training. He has not shown as much of this with Indianapolis yet, but it is difficult to keep a rhythm going in that regard when he is the DH three to four times per week.

The two on and two off system was designed to keep the players in a rhythm, but I just think that it has flaws when trying to get both players much-needed reps.

There is also a log jam in the outfield with four players. Early in the campaign, Gorkys Hernandez has established himself as the every day center fielder. However, this leaves Mel Rojas, Jr., Jaff Decker, and Jose Tabata competing for playing time at the other two positions.

While there is depth within the organization in the outfield, each player is looking to crack the next level. Decker is looking to build on a strong Spring Training that ended with a calf injury. Rojas is looking to continue a strong 2014 season both offensively and defensively. Tabata is looking to get back to the level that allowed him to sign that large extension just a couple of years ago.

Playing in a platoon will make is difficult of any of this trio to do that. In addition, there are another wave of outfield prospects coming from Altoona as well with Willy Garcia, Keon Broxton, and Stetson Allie. So not only are these three trying to improve, they are also looking to avoid being passed up by other younger players.

Finally, with Pedro Florimon clearing waivers, there is now a similar platoon at shortstop with Gustavo Nunez. While neither player looks like they will have a huge impact with the Pirates, both are smooth defenders and could be a short-term band-aid with an injury.

With the positional battles in Indianapolis, there are several players just working to get on the field. With this, consistency becomes an issues while not getting the reps that are needed to keep that rhythm. Typically, these issues play themselves out, but until they do, there is a logjam at several positions at Indianapolis.

**Prospect Watch: Another Strong Start From Tyler Glasnow, Allie And Moroff Homer

**Prospect Reports: Scout Loves Diaz, Sanchez Throwing Issues, Moroff A Sleeper

**Morning Report: An Important Day For Two Top Pitchers And An Interesting Match-Up In AA

**Draft Prospect Watch: Updates On Some Top Names In The College Ranks

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Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.

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dr dng

Tim or others,
Do we have anyone at Indy who another MLB team would be saying?
“We’d like to have that guy.”

Not including our untouchables on our top 20 prospects list.

What would their value be in a trade?
or does that depend on the despiration
of they team wanting them?

Kerry Writtenhouse

The only two guys at Indy that they would be reluctant to trade would be Kingham and Hanson?

Luke S

Not sure if you are asking that or stating that as what ya think, but Taillon is obviously missing from that list. Id also put Diaz on a “reluctant” to trade list.


You might add Sadler and Sampson to that lost also. And, I would be much more than ” reluctant ” to trade Elias Diaz. You don’t trade catching prospects of his caliber when you aren’t sure about the guy behind him and his ability to hit consistently.

Luke S

Unlikely id put Sadler or Sampson on a list of guys im reluctant to trade. Both are depth guys right now, and going forward likely to sit at the 5th SP/depth role for the future. Not to say that doesnt have value to the team, but id be fine moving one of those guys for a piece they need more and filling his spot with a guy in the lower levels. Rotation next year could be (at some point) Cole-Liriano-Taillon-Kingham-X, so that leaves 1 spot for Locke/Worley/Sampson/Sadler. Gotta have depth, but i dont worry about the SP depth with that situation + an offseason to add low priced depth if they traded Sampson/Sadler.

Agreed i wouldnt trade Diaz right now, but for me that also depends on what they do with Cervelli. It’ll get awkward next year if Diaz ends this year with a respectable AAA line and Cervelli is healthy for 120+ games. Not gonna want to demote Cervelli to backup, and id hope they are hesitant to call up Diaz just to be a backup for a guy who doesnt hit FA until 2017.

dr dng

No, here are the trading block players I am asking about that are at Indy: Sanchez, Floriman, Sellers, Decker, Hernandez, Tabata (no value?), LaFromboise, Lincoln. Lombardozzi. Do any of these have trade value or would another MLB team want or need them? Not even putting Romero on the list right now. Who knows he might be our 3rd baseman some day.

Luke S

Sanchez might if a team gets desperate via injury for a C option. Florimon seems unlikely since he was on the waiver wire recently do teams passed. I could see Decker or LaFromboise having value, but it isnt a ML piece in return unless you package it with a better talent.


Looks like the only solution might be a trade of some sort….maybe there is a team that is desperately looking for a catcher and/or 4th outfielder who could trade a lower level prospect or two for a Sanchez or Stewart? We could also use a reliever?

Scott K

This is a baseball version of a “rich person problem.”

This is a testament to the work of the entire organization. Scouts, player development, coaches, and front office personnel. But most of all, Bob Nutting. Under his ownership, he has revived a moribund, once proud, organization into a first-class operation.


Looks like a darned if ya do darned if ya don’t situation for the players and to some degree the pirates. All in all I would say it’s better to have to many rather than not enough. As for the players these things tend to come out in the wash.


pb: Speaking of coming out in the wash, is Hunter Morris providing anything at 1B at AAA? Stetson Allie used to be a 1B as recently as 2014, fielded .991 at AA (same as Morris at AAA), cut down on his K’s, hit for power (21 HR’s), and is still at AA? I doubt that Morris is going anywhere with the Pirates, so why not favor a player in whom we invested a signing bonus of $2 mil to draft, and is 2+ years younger?


Checked on hunter morris and to this point he’s not doing so hot , average under mendoza line ect. he has only played a handfull of games and I think he’s coming of an injury from when he was with the brewers.


Every Curve game I go to has me asking myself that same question. I would really like to know the organization’s plan regarding Allie. Keon Broxton is another player who probably be at AAA also.


I really don’t know, we will have to check the team website to find out.

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