Breaking Down the Final Pirates Roster Battles

The Pirates will play a two game series against the Blue Jays this weekend in Montreal, wrapping up their Spring Training schedule. They still have a few roster decisions to make before Opening Day, with five more cuts remaining in camp. Some of those cuts are obvious, such as Danny Ortiz or Jackson Williams. Others might depend on outside moves, or tougher decisions between similar ranked players. Here is the breakdown of what to expect this weekend, with the final roster expected after the Pirates leave Montreal.

The Rotation

The final rotation battle is down to Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams. They both have starts remaining this weekend, although Neal Huntington said that the decision for the final spot will come down to the body of work, along with the final start. So don’t think that the better stat line this weekend impacts the decision.

The debate between these two is a bit tricky, due to the nature of prospects. In terms of future upside, Glasnow wins hands down. In terms of where they both are right now, it might be closer than a lot of people believe, although I’d give the edge to Glasnow due to pure stuff. While he has a big upside in the future, he isn’t quite there just yet, and still has things to work on. Williams is a bit more polished in terms of reaching his upside, although that upside is lower. Basically, they’re close to the same level right now, but Glasnow can go much further with his development.

My prediction here is that Glasnow will get the final spot. He’s working on the right things, and seems to be in a much better place with his development path than last year, realizing what he needs to work on to succeed in the majors. As for Williams, I think he still has a shot to make the majors as a reliever, but that would be tricky.

The Bullpen

The Pirates optioned A.J. Schugel to Triple-A this morning, which means they have one more cut to make from the pitching staff. We know that Tony Watson, Felipe Rivero, Daniel Hudson, and Juan Nicasio all have spots. Antonio Bastardo has a spot as well, although there have been rumors all offseason that the Pirates have been trying to deal him.

With Bastardo on the team, two spots would be open for Wade LeBlanc, Tyler Webb, and Williams. The Pirates risk losing one of LeBlanc or Webb if they don’t make the team. LeBlanc is due $850 K guaranteed, which means he might be able to make it through waivers and be stashed in Triple-A, just like they did with Vin Mazzaro a few years ago. Webb is a Rule 5 pick, so they could work out a deal with the Yankees to keep him. However, this requires that he clears waivers and that the Yankees want to move him.

In both cases, the lefty market around baseball might be thin enough to make it a big risk putting either player on waivers, especially after what they each showed this spring. On that same note, the Pirates might be able to find a taker for Bastardo, even if it’s only to unload the money they still owe him, minus what the Mets are paying.

I think the best move would be to unload Bastardo and go with LeBlanc, Webb, and Williams for the final spots. You get the same type of upside with LeBlanc and Webb as lefty relievers, plus you have them under control for a longer period of time. You also help to relieve some of the minor league starting pitching log jam by moving Williams to the bullpen, and add another long-relief option in the majors.

The Bench

This might be where the only true battle on the team remains. The bench has a few guys locked in, and we’ll start with the backup catching role, since that’s a question mark. Chris Stewart has been banged up, and the Pirates still have Jacob Stallings and Jackson Williams in camp. If Stewart can’t play on Opening Day, I’d expect Stallings to start the year in Pittsburgh.

The other bench spots would be held by John Jaso and Adam Frazier, with two more spots remaining. Alen Hanson is out of options, while Phil Gosselin and Jose Osuna have both looked impressive this spring, although so did Hanson. Danny Ortiz is still on the roster, but is unlikely to make the majors. The Pirates could preserve all of their depth by sending down either Gosselin or Osuna and seeing what they have in Hanson. They could also try to trade one of these three, although I’m not sure if the return they’d get would be as valuable as having one of these three in the minors as depth throughout the year.

I think sending Gosselin down would be the best move. If Hanson doesn’t show he can be a productive bench player, then you can make the switch later in the season. I just think it would be foolish to cut Hanson loose or trade him without ever giving him a chance to show what he can do.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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why is a story from 2017 on here?

William R. Maloni Sr

Why not the more obvious, keep the kids and cut Jaso??

joe s

With clint as the manager Hanson’s chance will be as a pitch hitter and runner. He will be lucky to get 30 starts if he stays with the team for the entire year. Sounds like a death sentence to me, but perhaps I will be surprised and he will get a solid chance to produce.


Bell has 41 at bats this spring. that maybe 10-12 games worth……

John W

Lol all this angst over hanson…1000 triple a at bats seems sufficient as far as a chance is concerned.

The reality is it’s unlikely Hanson outperforms gosselin.

Scott K

Unless there is a trade, or traded, before Monday, I see Pirates making moves to keep players in system regardless of earning spot on OD roster w their play this Spring.


Agree 100% on Hanson. It’s the smart organizational move, you avoid throwing away value, and it looks like he can maybe play.

Scott K

Unless there is a trade, or traded, before Monday, I see Pirates making moves to keep players in system regardless of earning spot on OD roster w their play this Spring.

Darren G

Trading Bastado and Jaso would be the best long term move in my opinion. Jaso ought to be worth some type of decent prospect return (couple if C prospects perhaps) with Bastardo mostly being a salary dump at this juncture. If Jaso is not moved then they might as well send Osuna down since he will be unlikely to get many at-bats with Bell, Jaso and Freese all getting at-bats at 1b and with Bell probably picking up most of the at-bats in RF on the rare day McCutchen sits.


I will actually wouldn’t mind seeing Bell start the season in AAA. All I’ve seen this st is him striking out or playing pepper with the pitcher. Absolutely no sign of him being ready to start the season in the bigs.


You been drinking Don Q Anejo? Wow! Bell starts and he plays.


Stop it.


Flag this comment for the third week of April…


Please do!


LOL I know.


Starting the season down in Indy doesn’t mean spending the whole year. Hopefully he does go back to what he is supposed to be. But right now he seems way off. Can’t handle fastballs inside and flailing at pitches way off the plate.


Has Diaz dropped low enough to be passed by Stallings?


Stallings couldn’t hit his weight divided by his hat size

Bill Harvey

You are 100% wrong.


.214 average over a full year in AAA and a .610 OPS? Makes Austin Meadows look like Mike Piazza

Bill Harvey

Weight – 220ish.
Hat size- 8 3/4ish

Is 25ish, I think he can hit .025.


Did you bring the syllabus for “literalist Interpretation of Symbolic and hyperbolic metaphorical speech” for everyone? 😉


I think they want Diaz catching every day, rather than once a week.

John Dreker

Yes, you are correct. Tim is talking short-term. Stewart isn’t badly hurt and he’s still an Opening Day option, so whoever they choose would be a bench jockey for ten days. The backup is going to catch Thursday and Sunday probably. Diaz would be better suited to play daily during that time. If it was a long-term injury, then that would be different.


26 year old AAA catcher they want to catch everyday? Lee, we’re talking 10-15 days he would be n the majors, then he can go back down and catch everyday.


No way Stallings passed Diaz. I think Lee is spot on


Why wouldn’t they want Diaz in the majors for a week or 2? It’s certainly not going to damper his development.


Yeah, this is just silly.

Like whatever he’s gonna learn in those AAA games is better than being around and facing actual Major Leaguers.


They way they’ve handled Diaz at times is nothing short of baffling….Guy is out of options next year, you would think they would want him to get at least some experience in the show. Then again, this is just pure speculation from the author of this article.

Phil W

If they go with Glasnow, then I would send Williams to Indy to keep him stretched out as starter depth. I’m less worried about the L/R mix in the bullpen. Hudson, Nicasio, and Rivero can get righties out. Gosselin has had a nice spring, but agree sending him down makes sense. Mercer shouldn’t need many days off the first 4-6 weeks. Let Gosselin get playing time in Indy and he’ll likely be back up when there are injuries. Osuna needs to stay, not just because of his spring results, but he has looked legit, consistently having quality at bats.

Darren G

I was thinking your way initially on Williams but after further consideration I like having him available mostly as a piggy-back for Glasnow since right now it seems unlikely Glasnow will be pitching late into many games. Glasnow tends to have high strikeouts rates but also high pitch per inning rates. Rather then burning through 4 or 5 relievers every time Glasnow starts they can just have Williams throw 3 or 4 innings. Then LeBlanc can handle long relief duty as needed when the other 4 starters pitch. This will also keep Williams available to start if needed.

Ron Zorn

Love this idea, not sure why not used more often. Rather than burn through relievers, similar to Brault’s short outings last year, why not just have setup that Glasnow will go to x number of pitches, followed by Williams for the same. I hated seeing Brault go four last year, then we had to use 4-6 relievers to finish out the game.


Great idea, but what about nicascio instead of Williams? Leblanc isn’t gonna be around long, he sucks, albeit even if he’s only in long relief.


The reason you keep LeBlanc is for those days when you need long relief – with a staff of all RH starters, you want your long guy to be a LH.

Phil W

Good point. Hopefully the starters can be more efficient, go deeper into games, and not put so much pressure on the bullpen. However, there will likely be some short outings from Glasnow.


Do you think Glasnow’s long term development that he start the season as the #1 in AAA or a #5 in the majors? Any news on if the Buccos are still pursuing Pagon as the 4th outfielder

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