Spring Training begins this week for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the best way to get our coverage started is to see what position battles the Pirates have ahead of them. We’ve uploaded our Spring Training tracker, giving the chances of each player making the roster. We’ll be updating that throughout the spring as things change for each open position.
Right now we are projecting eight open roster spots. We’ve got two people who are projected to make the team with no specific spot assigned, plus 19 other players with a legit chance to win one of the final six spots. Below you can find a breakdown of the position battles.
The Final Rotation Spot
I’ve got Jordan Lyles in green on the tracker, but without a spot. He’s got the inside track for the fifth rotation spot heading into Spring Training, and if he doesn’t get that, he will get a spot in the bullpen.
If Lyles isn’t the starter, expect the Pirates to go with an opener strategy for the final rotation spot. Lyles would be involved in that mix, along with guys like Nick Kingham, Steven Brault, Clay Holmes, and even some of the NRI guys like Francisco Liriano.
By the end of the season, this spot should be taken by Mitch Keller, but don’t expect him to break camp out of Spring Training.
Three Spots in the Bullpen
Regardless of whether the Pirates go with an opener or not, there would be three remaining spots in the bullpen. I’ve got 11 players who will be competing for those spots, including four NRI guys.
I’d give Nick Kingham and Steven Brault an inside track when evaluating their chances.
I’m guessing that Clay Holmes will only make the Opening Day roster if there are some injuries, or if he’s factoring into an opener strategy. Otherwise, I’d expect him to go to the Triple-A rotation as depth.
Nick Burdi needs to be on the team for two months until his Rule 5 status is expired, so I’d also give him an inside track to making the team.
From there, I think the final inside track goes to one of the NRI guys, with Francisco Liriano and Tyler Lyons leading the way as a left-handed relief option.
However, there are only three spots, with four inside tracks here. Out of that group, Brault is the only guy who can go to the minors, which is why I’d give him the lowest chance of the group. His chances would improve if the Pirates went with an opener strategy.
I’ve got Jesus Liranzo, Michael Feliz, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Roberto Gomez in yellow. They could make the team either with a good camp, or if injuries impact some of the previously mentioned guys.
Right now this position looks like a battle between Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman, with Gonzalez having the inside track. Nick Franklin could also factor into the mix, although it would be unlikely that he’d win the starting job. He’d be more of an option for the bench if the Pirates felt that Newman needed more time in Triple-A.
This isn’t much of a battle right now, but I’ll take this opportunity to say that I feel this is the team’s biggest potential area for an upgrade if they make a move during Spring Training.
Two or Three Bench Spots
I say that there are two or three bench spots because it really depends on who wins the shortstop position. I’ve got Erik Gonzalez making the team either as the starting shortstop or on the bench. For now, let’s assume he wins the starting job, and look at who will take the final three spots.
Jacob Stallings is out of options, and the Pirates could carry him in one of those remaining spots to keep him on the roster, and to free up Francisco Cervelli or Elias Diaz for pinch hitting duties when they’re not starting.
Kevin Newman, Pablo Reyes, and Nick Franklin should compete for the infield bench role, with Reyes possibly having an advantage due to his ability to play the outfield. However, if the Pirates add a fourth outfielder to the bench, then that would lower the positional value for Reyes. I think Newman will have the inside track, especially if the Pirates go with a playing time split at shortstop.
The final spot should go to an outfielder. I’ve got Melky Cabrera, JB Shuck, Patrick Kivlehan, and Jose Osuna with the best chances to make the team. I think the spot will ultimately go to either Cabrera or Shuck.
My prediction for the bench would be Cabrera or Shuck for the outfield, Newman for the infield, and either Stallings or Reyes (or one of Cabrera/Shuck) for the final spot.
If I had to predict a roster at the start of camp…
C – Francisco Cervelli
1B – Josh Bell
2B – Adam Frazier
SS – Erik Gonzalez
3B – Colin Moran
LF – Corey Dickerson
CF – Starling Marte
RF – Lonnie Chisenhall
BN – Elias Diaz, Jung Ho Kang, Jacob Stallings, Kevin Newman, Melky Cabrera
SP – Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, Jordan Lyles
RP – Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick, Nick Kingham, Nick Burdi, Tyler Lyons