The Pittsburgh Pirates made their first three Spring Training cuts on Friday morning by optioning pitchers Dario Agrazal and Luis Escobar, while reassigning catcher Jin-De Jhang to minor league camp. The Spring Training roster now sits at 61 with 20 days before Opening Day. You can view our Spring Training tracker here, which has been updated with today’s moves.
Escobar and Agrazal were both added to the 40-man roster this past off-season and weren’t competing for big league jobs at this point. Agrazal has been assigned to Altoona, while Escobar was assigned to Bradenton. With starting pitchers going longer in games, both will head over to the minor league side so they can get stretched out for their season. Jhang has been injured all spring, recovering from an elbow injury that happened during his time in Australia playing winter ball in December.
UPDATE 8:29 AM: Analysis from Tim Williams…
None of these moves are a surprise, as these three weren’t going to make the MLB roster. Minor League camp is about to start up games in the next few days, and Agrazal and Escobar will be used as starters. There are fewer innings available in big league camp, and those two will need to start extending out in order to get ready for their seasons.
I see Agrazal as a future reliever, although the Pirates will give him a shot as a starter. He showed improvements with his slider last year before a shoulder injury ended his season. He told me in camp that the shoulder is now fine. An improved slider, combined with his mid-90s sinker, would give him a better chance of sticking as a starter, since he already has the changeup. That improved slider could also increase his chances of being a late inning reliever if he doesn’t stick as a starter.
Escobar has some of the highest upside of pitching prospects in the system, but has a lot of risk due to his control issues. I saw some of that during his brief time in MLB camp. The control problems could be chalked up to adrenaline in a bigger stage, which has been an issue for him in the past, and could just be immaturity at this point that could eventually be overcome with experience. I see Escobar as a lighter version of Tyler Glasnow from a few years ago. His stuff is so good that he should dominate hitters in the Florida State League, though maybe not to the extent that we saw from Glasnow. Yet, his control issues will lead to a need for a big adjustment if he wants to have success in the upper levels and eventually the majors. The good thing here is that Escobar has added a changeup, and it’s a good one. He also has a slider that looks like a plus offering. The one thing holding him back is fastball control.
As for Jhang, he has been injured, and hasn’t been throwing. It will be interesting to see where he fits in with the upper level teams. Jacob Stallings will be the starter in Indianapolis, and Christian Kelley should start in Altoona. Jhang could be the backup to either player and still get time as the DH. But his elbow status will play a role in his future, since the arm is one of his biggest strengths behind the plate, and his body doesn’t allow him to play other positions, aside from maybe first base (where he doesn’t have a future with the Pirates).
I’d expect more cuts in the next few days, as the Pirates send down more players with minor league games starting soon.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.