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Pirates Business: Designated for Assignment

Baseball is full of roster rules and regulations that aren’t always the easiest to understand. Well, these are my favorite parts of baseball, so I’m creating a series to try and explain some of those aspects of the game. If you missed it, check out last week’s article on how Optional and Outright assignments work. “To make room on the active roster, Player X was designated for assignment”. Baseball fans hear it so much that it’s something that has become second nature, but what does it really mean? Teams can only designate a player for assignment if they need room on their Active List (26-man roster) or Reserve List (40-man roster), so this is a short-term way to make room for incoming players. Nothing happens to the player immediately, however, aside from losing their roster spot. In simple terms, think of being designated for assignment as an IOU for a future transaction — except this is a transaction a player doesn’t want to be owed.

Fulfilling a Designation

Once a player has been designated, the team has seven days to effectively settle up with the player, with the date of designation counting as Day 0. There are several ways in which a team can designate a player: assign them outright to the minors, assign them to another team (trade), or release them. Outright Assignment and Waivers In order to be outrighted to the minors, a team would have to place the player on waivers and he would have to go unclaimed by the other 29 teams. This is likely the point where many fans get confused by the process. When designated, a player isn’t immediately placed on waivers, which I believe to be the common misconception. They simply need to be able to clear waivers within a week, and while I don’t want this to turn into a tutorial on waivers, a little extra information is required to explain this. According to the rules, if a player is placed on waivers in season by 2 p.m. on any given day, another team must place a claim on said player by 1 p.m. two days later. For example, a player placed on waivers by 2 p.m. Monday needs claimed by 1 p.m. Wednesday. Offseason waivers are a little different in that business essentially isn’t done on weekends (Thursday is settled on Monday and Friday on Tuesday), but the same theory applies. So, if a player is designated for assignment on a Monday, they must be able to clear waivers by 1 p.m. the following Monday. That means that the team wouldn’t have to place them on waivers until Saturday in-season and Thursday during the offseason. Either way leaves several days between the designation and the waiver placement where the player is just kind of existing in purgatory, neither on an active roster or waivers. Therefore, this period is often when teams will test the market on their designated player, seeing if they may be able to get more than just a waiver fee. Trade Another reason why players aren’t immediately placed on waivers is that players are not allowed to be traded while a waiver request is pending. Why would a team want to trade for a player that they might be able to claim on waivers in a few days though? Teams generally have a good idea of how other teams view their players, and sometimes one person’s trash is another’s treasure. When a player is placed on waivers, the waiver order is such that the worst team in the entire league gets first dibs, all the way down to the worst. The common misunderstanding prevails that waiver order goes by National and American League (I guess that’s understandable when baseball can’t even get it right), but it hasn’t been that way since at least 2019 (the oldest rulebook I have access to). So, if a team further down the waiver order fancies a player, they may have to effectively jump line and acquire the player before anyone else can. If the player is in high demand, that may mean trading a player in return, like the Toronto Blue Jays did for Zach Thompson. Usually, however, it only takes cash considerations, like Bryse Wilson and the Milwaukee Brewers. As of 2021, considerations for a waiver claim were $50,000, so anything above that makes it worth the designating team’s time to accept a trade. Release Finally, if a player has enough service time—5.000 years of service or more—and can decline an outright assignment, they are typically released when their seven days are up. Heath Hembree in 2022 fits the bill for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but Albert Pujols in 2021 is a more notable example (notice the seven days between news stories, for what it’s worth). Sometimes, teams will still release a player that is able to be outrighted, as the Pirates did with Kyle Crick in 2021.

Designated for Assignment and Contract Details

If a player is on the active roster when they are designated for assignment, they continue to receive their Major League salary while also accruing service time, both through the date of the assignment or release. However, if a player is on optional assignment when they are designated for assignment, they do not gain service time, but they are still paid at their Minor League salary. The date of designation is also counted as the final day of the optional assignment.

Offseason Calendar Update

No updates here as of this week

Pirates Payroll Updates

— No updates here as of this week —For 2023, the payroll estimate stands at $73,202,372 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $89,619,039 for CBT purposes.

Pirates Prospects Daily: Bradenton Could Have A Crowded Outfield Picture

With Spring Training right around the corner, we still are a little bit away from finding out where most prospects will start their seasons. It might be a little bit easier to project for those who have been in the system for a couple of years, but for the ones a little newer to the system, it can be more difficult. Another harder task is determining when they might have a player make the jump from the complex league to Single-A Bradenton. When looking at the FCL roster, and who might make the leap to full season ball, there are plenty of names to track, especially in the outfield.

Shalin Polanco

This might be one of the most notable names moving up from the complex to full season baseball. Polanco signed one of the biggest International bonuses in franchise history. A toolsy outfielder, he’s still a lot more projection than anything else, but still put up a 97 wRC+ this past season in the FCL. He’ll turn 19 early in February, putting him right at the age the Pirates like to push some of their younger prospects to Bradenton.

Braylon Bishop

Another player that’s far more projection than anything else (you’ll notice a theme), Bishop has the potential to be one of two over slot signings from the 2021 draft class to roam the outfield for the Marauders this season. He flashed some of his speed last year (10 stolen bases), but hasn’t put much of that raw power to use yet on the field. He will turn 20 during the season.

Enmanuel Terrero

An International signing in 2019, Terrero walked more than he struck out last season, but didn’t show a lot of power. He was still one of the best hitters on the Pirates’ FCL team, with a .330/.446/.443 slash, nine stolen bases and 22 runs. He was a very extreme ground ball hitter, with a 61.7 GB%. 

Esmerlyn Valdez

Valdez was one of the better hitters on the FCL team last year, posting a 117 wRC+ in 124 plate appearances. He hit three home runs and drove in 20 RBI while posting a .162 ISO in 2022. He’ll be 19-years-old for the entirety of the 2023 season. He’s also played some first base, which could free up more playing time for himself and the others here. 

Lonnie White Jr.

The other over slot signing from the 2021 draft, White was another multi-sport athlete that was on his way to college to also play football (along with Bubba Chandler). In the brief time we’ve seen him, White has shown a lot of power, but also some swing and miss issues. It’s also been 40 total plate appearances so far in his career. He has great raw power and could be a plus defender in center field with his speed and arm. At this point it’s about getting and staying on the field. Some of the names that could potentially be heading to Bradenton this year may not be household names to start, but there they all have the upside to quickly become recognized if they are able to stay on the field and get some playing time. The sheer amount of names vying for at-bats should also drive some healthy competition, which can only help everyone improve.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams **In the latest Pirates Winter Report, John Dreker has an outstanding breakdown of minor league catcher Dylan Shockley, who found lost development time in Australia this winter. **The Pirates signed RHP Juan Minaya to a minor league deal. **Missed yesterday? Anthony wrote about the rollercoaster season for Brenden Dixon.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

Ethan Hullihen is working on a new feature to create a Glossary of transaction details on the site. His first installment is a look at how Optional and Outright Assignments work.

Pirates Business: How Do Optional and Outright Assignments Work? Wilbur Miller looked at the Pirates’ 2019 draft, which is led by Quinn Priester, but has a lot of other interesting prospects still around. WTM: The Pirates’ Quirky 2019 Draft Bubba Chandler was a highlight of the 2021 draft, and Anthony Murphy looked at the progress and potential he showed during his debut season. Bubba Chandler Showed Progress and Potential In His Debut Season

Pirates Winter Report: Dylan Shockley Finds Lost Development Time in Australia

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Our Pirates Winter Report highlights one Pittsburgh Pirates prospect each week, with brief notes from each country playing winter ball. This week we feature catcher Dylan Shockley, who spent this off-season in Australia. Dylan Shockley has the defense behind the plate to make the majors. The 34th round pick in the 2019 draft came into the 2022 season with just 63 games of pro experience. An injury to Henry Davis opened up playing time behind the plate this past year in Altoona. However, Shockley suffered his own season-ending injury to his thumb in July. Shockley finished up his season with 24 games played. Inconsistent at-bats after getting pushed to the upper levels of the system led to a .147/.284/.191 slash line in 82 plate appearances. He doesn’t need to hit like an All-Star to eventually make it to the show, but needs to play to make progress. He was sent to Australia this winter to finally get those consistent at-bats. Shockley ended up with 131 plate appearances this off-season, one short of his season high in pro ball. He batted .220/.331/.358 in 36 games this winter. We often get asked about the competition level of winter leagues compared to the level of the minors. I often say that depending on the players each year, Australia is either the same as High-A or Double-A. Reaching out to Shockey to discuss his season, he agreed. “I thought the competition level was very similar to Altoona,” Shockley said. “You had a lot of experienced pitchers that threw in the big leagues, guys who played overseas, and some High-A and Double-A arms. Overall, I thought the competition was very close, other than not seeing velo as consistently.” That is a key difference between how you get pitched in winter ball, and what you see in the minors. “Three or four clubs had velo guys, but the others were around the 88-93 MPH range,” said Shockley. “Not a lot of guys that threw over 95, but guys knew how to pitch with their amount of experience, so that’s what made it good.” The low minors have a lot of pitchers who have velocity and not much else. Those skills develop over the years. Shockley didn’t see many polished pitchers coming up through the system, so Australia provided those types of challenges. “You would have a couple guys that were a lot older, and be in the 80’s,” Shockley said. “They were crafty guys who would change arms slots on every pitch and had ten pitches it seemed like. They attacked a little different because they knew what they were good at, as opposed to guys in the minors still learning and trying to find out who they are.” Shockley seemed to be at the perfect level for his experience this winter, plus he had the added bonus of making up for missed time. It’s interesting to get his perspective of the winter assignment. “Going to Australia definitely helped,” Shockley said. “Where I’ve been kind of stuck in our organization with surplus of plus catchers and not getting a lot of at-bats. With my season-ending surgery, I was able to get the at-bats I needed.” Shockley said that the first couple of weeks of winter were a build-up after not playing for about four months. He was just happy to see pitching and catch everyday after returning from his thumb surgery. The season gave him a chance to develop the hitting side of the ball. “The biggest thing was seeing pitching everyday and building confidence within myself,” said Shockley. “It was so much easier to hit, and being able to put good at-bats together after I was comfortable and had the confidence.” The first couple weeks saw a lot of different adjustments for Shockley, between seeing pitching for the first time in four months, and getting used to seeing more polished pitchers. He said after that breaking in period, he was able to barrel up balls more consistently and put together quality at-bats.  As for the defensive side, Shockley is recognized as one of the best catchers in the system. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have work to do behind the plate, and getting more reps in winter ball could only help in that area. He did have something specific to work on to help out his game. “My main focus was to work on back-picking more from my knees,” Shockley noted. “That’s just another tool to add to my toolbox because my catching is one of the main reasons why I’m still here. That’s why they sent me to Australia to work on hitting, because if I can put together more quality at-bats, who knows what will happen?” Shockley played on the Sydney Blue Sox, along with five other members of the Pirates minor league system. His manager was Tony Harris, a long-time scout for the Pirates, who has plenty of managerial experience. While Shockley didn’t know Harris before he went to Australia, it helped to have someone from the Pirates there as his manager in a foreign country. “[Harris] definitely made everything a lot easier on the Pirates players adjusting to being there,” Shockley said. “It was definitely more comfortable, because we would know exactly what we needed to work on, what the Pirates would want, and we would get feedback. I thought he handled everything very well and he was a great person to be around as well.” Shockley was quick to point out that the rest of the coaching staff did amazing work with the players. All six of the Pirates players sent there were position players, so they also leaned on hitting coach Brendan Kingman, who played seven years in the minors, and also had plenty of experience playing in Australia. “[Kingman] helped us on trying to be simple and don’t try to do too much,” Shockley said. “Anytime we needed something or more work, the coaching staff was always on it. They were all great mates (Australian pun intended). I loved every second of being there” The feelings were mutual between Harris and Shockley, as the Sydney manager sang huge praises of the leadership work done by his catcher this winter. “What he brings to the table with his intangibles of leadership, the relationship he builds with the pitchers and the presence on the field, instantly makes the club better,” Harris said. “He has total respect from his pitchers, and he brings the best out of them in every outing. He can be a pitcher’s best friend, but tough when needed. He leads the club from behind the plate with his presence and quarterback mentality.” Harris backed up the scouting reports on Shockley, noting that he saw a plus glove, and an arm that controlled the running game. He also went into detail about him needing/getting at-bats this winter after missing time due to his injury, and how he progressed with those at-bats. “He worked on using more of the field, and in particular, getting in good hitter’s counts,” Harris said about Shockley’s work at the plate. “It was definitely an objective for him, and I saw a great deal of progress over his time here with using the left side of the field with some authority. I feel he’s in a really good spot to have a great Spring Training and season ahead.” Harris closed things out by saying that Shockley was a great teammate and ambassador for the Pirates organization this winter. Shockley has certainly impressed with his defense over the years. We will see if the progress he made this winter helps him get the rest of his game to the next level.

Around the World

Caribbean Series

The only thing going on in winter ball for the Pirates over the last week is Francisco Acuna representing Colombia in the Caribbean Series. He had an extremely impressive first game against Puerto Rico on Thursday, going 4-for-4 with a double, three runs and an RBI. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI on Friday.

Pirates Sign RHP Juan Minaya to a Minor League Deal

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed veteran right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya to a minor league deal. The 32-year-old pitched six games for the Minnesota Twins in 2022, his sixth season in the majors. Minaya originally signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. It took him eight years to make his big league debut with the 2016 Chicago White Sox. In four seasons with Chicago, he compiled a 6-4, 3.93 record in 128.1 innings, with 142 strikeouts and a 1.43 WHIP. He saw some work as a closer during that time, picking up ten saves. Minaya didn’t pitch during the 2020 season, though he played winter ball before and after that shortened season. He spent half of 2021 in the majors with the Twins, where he had a 2.48 ERA, 43 strikeouts and a 1.18 WHIP in 40 innings over 29 appearances. His big league time in 2022 was limited to 9.2 innings over six games in the middle of the year.  Minaya had an outstanding winter performance this year. He had a 1.26 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14.1 innings over 15 appearances in the Dominican, where the league was loaded with talent this off-season.

Pirates Prospects Daily: Brenden Dixon Navigated Roller Coaster Professional Debut

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When talking about the 2021 draft for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a name that doesn’t usually come up immediately is Brenden Dixon, which probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as the infielder was the team’s last pick. Dixon began his college career at Texas, playing briefly before the pandemic shut down the season. He transferred to Weatherford JC and had a commitment to play for Arkansas, before being drafted and signed by the Pirates. Over the course of a long season, it’s expected to see a lot of ups and downs, especially when injuries are involved. That was the case for Dixon.  He was hot out the gate, slashing .235/.361/.409 with four home runs (13 extra-base hits) and a wRC+ of 122. The strikeouts were high (29.1 K%) but he was also walking a good amount (15.2%).  June and July was a struggle, with Dixon even missing time with an injury. The strikeouts crossed over the wrong side of 30%, with his wRC+ only at 65 and his slash a measly .149/.308/.207. He only picked up three extra-base hits in 107 plate appearances during that time frame. Fully healthy, the infielder finished strong, posting a 110 wRC+ down the stretch, cutting down on the strikeouts (25.6%) and picking up three more home runs and driving in 11. On the season, Dixon hit eight home runs, driving in 36 runs, and stole six bases. One impressive mark was that no matter how much he struggled, the walks stayed steady (15.3% season mark), and it should be stated that his swinging strike rate was only 10.1%, which was lower than Endy Rodriguez’s mark. So, he wasn’t missing on a lot of pitches (had a 72.6% contact rate), and maybe with a little more aggression at the plate, could actually see an increase in the batting average. When Dixon put the ball into play, he put up decent exit velocity numbers. He had an average EV of 87.8 mph, and had a 4.6% barrel rate, both decent numbers for a Single-A hitter. A baseball season on its own is a roller coaster, and the best that play the game are the ones who can recover from the lows the fastest. With how he struggled in the middle of the season, it’s a positive sign he was able to bounce back the way he did. He’s another name that makes solid contact that could thrive in Greensboro, it will be a matter of putting the ball into play more.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams **There are less than two weeks before Spring Training begins, and Jeff Reed looks at some of the various storylines leading into camp. **In our latest Roundtable, we looked at where the Pirates need to add for the 2023 season. **Missed yesterday? Anthony highlighted a few Spring Training non-roster invitees to watch.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

Ethan Hullihen is working on a new feature to create a Glossary of transaction details on the site. His first installment is a look at how Optional and Outright Assignments work.

Pirates Business: How Do Optional and Outright Assignments Work? Wilbur Miller looked at the Pirates’ 2019 draft, which is led by Quinn Priester, but has a lot of other interesting prospects still around. WTM: The Pirates’ Quirky 2019 Draft Bubba Chandler was a highlight of the 2021 draft, and Anthony Murphy looked at the progress and potential he showed during his debut season. Bubba Chandler Showed Progress and Potential In His Debut Season

Pirates Discussion: Less Than Two Weeks Till Players Report For Spring Training

We’re 12 days away from when pitchers and catchers officially report to camp for the Pittsburgh Pirates. As of now, there are a handful of prospects at camp for instructs. Henry Davis has been having a good time sending a couple balls over the wall. Malcom Nunez has been getting some repetitions at third base. John Dreker detailed the list non-roster invitees on Thursday, which included a previously unannounced signing of infielder Chris Owings. If you’d like an entire list of all who will be attending camp, Pirates beat reporter Alex Stumpf posted a full roster. Over the course of the last few weeks, the major publications have been releasing their Top 100 lists with Kiley McDaniel at ESPN having posted the most recent list. Then Keith Law, after having posted his own Top 100 list, released his farm rankings that had the Pirates ranked sixth. With all major roster acquisitions likely to be done for the time being, most attention will turn to position battles. There doesn’t stand to be that many spots, and most competition will probably be for who gets first shot at an opening if an injury were to occur. The most likely open position battles will be for backup catcher and one to two outfield positions. I’d say that Tyler Heineman has the leg up for backup catcher, but maybe Carter Bins comes into camp showing some better contact that will allow his power to play. Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski are the two favorites to garner outfield spots, but I imagine going into camp that Reynolds is the only one of the two with an assured spot. One thing I’ll be keeping an eye open for is whether Reynolds plays strictly in center field, or if he is seeing time in the corner spots as well. Assumptions would be that Vince Velasquez has the fifth starter role, but of the five presumed starters, his spot would be the one that could potentially flip. The bullpen seems to be mostly filled out with returning pitchers and a couple acquisitions. Which potential battles are you looking forward to? Is there anyone that you believe will force their way on to the roster much like Diego Castillo did last Spring Training?

Pirates Roundtable: Where else do the Pirates need to add for the 2023 season?

The Pittsburgh Pirates added veteran infielder Chris Owings on a minor league deal, which we learned about yesterday. Prior to this move, I asked Pirates Prospects writers where else the Pirates need to add for the 2023 season. With all due respect to Owings, I’m not sure that anyone had a backup middle infielder as the biggest need. Then again, in keeping with the theme of this article, I’m making that assumption without having read what everyone else had to say. As usual for Roundtable, all responses are submitted blind, so no one knows how anyone else is going to answer the question. Where else do the Pirates need to add for the 2023 season?

JOHN DREKER

This question can be answered at least two ways. I’ll start by saying I see the Pirates winning around 76 games this year, with a little bit better performance during the second half. If they decide to keep all of the impending free agents like Rich Hill, Carlos Santana, etc, then maybe they can do a little better if the group of top prospects at the upper levels don’t fall flat. You would need to add something to that group to give them a playoff shot if everything went right, but it doesn’t mean you’re a really good team if you just sneak into the playoffs under the new system with more playoff teams. So this question is, do you want to block some prospects in order to possibly sneak into the playoffs? Or do you want a legit playoff team that can go somewhere? I don’t think they have the resources for the second part, and I really don’t know if those difference makers are available right now. Answering the first part, the outfield still looks like it could add a starter. There seems to be room for improvement, especially with Andrew McCutchen likely to play DH most of the time. You basically still have Bryan Reynolds and a bunch of question marks. I don’t know if I’d be willing to add someone over giving legit shots to guys like Cal Mitchell and Jack Suwinski a chance to see what they could do with regular playing time now that they have MLB experience. Assuming they could add a legit outfielder, then I’d want to see a better catcher as the backup than any of the available players already in the system. It’s another spot where I’d be hesitant to add because I think Endy Rodriguez will end up in a platoon role by mid-season. If we are adding players though, then I’d want a legit backup. Those two additions would move the needle on those slim playoff chances from almost zero to an actual full percentage number.

ETHAN HULLIHEN

To me, this is fairly easy. Not to say that the options are all the best, but most of the roster is set at this point. The bullpen and rotation are overflowing with options, there are too many outfielders that need to be sorted through, and most of the starting infielders are set. If anything, backup catcher could be better, but either Tyler Heineman or Jason Delay will keep Endy Rodriguez’s spot warm until he’s ready. That leaves backup shortstop as the only glaring hole, at least in my opinion. Currently, the options vying for second base are the options to backup Oneil Cruz. Hopefully Cruz can be a mainstay there this season, but any of the other players in the mix can hardly play the position well enough to give Cruz a day off, much less if he goes down with an injury. Rodolfo Castro has proven not to be the best option at short, while Ji Hwan Bae doesn’t really have the arm for it. I guess the other player competing for a bench spot in spring is Tucupita Marcano, but he’s not exactly the best fit for shortstop either. With neither seeing time in Triple-A yet, I personally don’t think Jared Triolo or Liover Peguero are options at this point. Based on how Ben Cherington has talked, I think any option at this point in the offseason is going to be a Non-Roster Invite. Bae and Marcano may be in direct competition for backup utility infielder/outfielder, but a veteran middle infielder who can play shortstop wouldn’t hurt this team going into the season. EDITOR’S NOTE: The above response was submitted on 2/1, a day prior to the Owings signing.

WILBUR MILLER

Their two biggest needs are general manager and manager, but that’s not going to happen so I’ll go with the bullpen. The concept of “adding” at a particular spot does have its pitfalls, because it leads to a check-the-box mentality. It’d be better to think of it simply as adding talent, not a particular position. In that sense, the Pirates’ two biggest player needs are the same as they were going into the off-season: catcher and first base. They may end up worse at other positions, although I doubt it, but from the standpoint of potential, those are the two spots where they remain the furthest behind other teams. But the Pirates have checked those boxes, so the bullpen is the obvious place to add, unless they’d be willing to ditch Vince Velasquez. They probably have enough on hand now that, with a few breaks, they could end up with at least a solid bullpen. Of course, Derek Shelton’s obsession with middle relievers and his tendency to value tenure over talent won’t help, but the potential is there. They’ve got an extremely volatile situation, though, as the relievers in the current pool with the most established track records are mostly the ones with the lower ceilings, specifically Duane Underwood Jr., Wil Crowe and Chase De Jong. Guys like Robert Stephenson, Yerry De Los Santos and Jose Hernandez are going to be very hit-or-miss, and Colin Holderman is a significant health risk (as is David Bednar, if Shelton uses him carelessly again). Adding more options, especially lefties, is never going to be a bad thing, as long as it’s guys with some upside, no matter how risky.

ANTHONY MURPHY

I think looking at the major league roster without taking into consideration the prospects they have in the system, the position that probably still needs to be upgraded the most is catcher. Austin Hedges and Tyler Heineman (assuming he does win the back up spot to start) form quite the formidable duo defensively, but leave plenty to be desired when it comes to the bat. Of course, two of the team’s top prospects also catch, one is already on the 40-man roster, so this is what they are going to enter the season with and have to deal with until one of the other two are deemed ready. There’s also the outfield, as there are still plenty of names, but none that really stand out. They brought in Andrew McCutchen, but if he takes the majority of his reps at DH, that really didn’t solve anything on the field. The biggest glaring need right now, for me, is who is going to backup up Oneil Cruz at shortstop. Hopefully he plays as many games as possible, making a backup shortstop a very low priority, but it would be nice to have an option behind him that they can feel comfortable with playing against lefties to give Cruz a break if he is in a slump. It really doesn’t do any good to have Liover Peguero sit on the bench, and while Jared Triolo could be an option, he hasn’t played much at shortstop professionally. They could slide Rodolfo Castro over to shortstop, but that’d force Ji-Hwan Bae or Tucupita Marcano (both left-handed) at second base to face fellow left-handers. It may not be a big need, but definitely something the Pirates should look out there to see if they can address it.

JEFF REED

There aren’t many areas I think the Pirates could really upgrade without it having to be a trade with purpose. Which, with some of the upper level depth they have, it may not be the worst idea. Backup catcher would be one glaring area. Tyler Heineman probably has the inside track, with Jason Delay and Carter Bins as other possibilities. My original off-season plan would’ve been to swing a trade for Danny Jansen, but that time has passed. Austin Hedges is the number one for now, but if he gets hurt, it will be painful until Super 2 date arrives for Endy Rodriguez. A backup shortstop is an area of need. I’m not sure if bringing in Chris Owings was an attempt at this, but a trusted backup shortstop would be useful for when Oneil Cruz needs a day off. Bullpen’s always need additions. But they’re also extremely fungible, while the Pirates have a slew of bullpen likely arms in the upper levels. I think the best additions here will come from within their existing depth. EDITOR’S NOTE: The above response was submitted on 2/2, after the Owings signing was announced.

TIM WILLIAMS

I’m going to keep my answer short: The Pirates could use a veteran reliever to pair with David Bednar. They were running into usage issues with Bednar last year, and that was with a 62-win team. The 2023 squad projects to win more games, which will put more of a demand on Bednar. I like the middle relief depth the Pirates have put together. There are a few pitchers who I could see emerging as strong leverage relievers by the end of the year — just as Bednar did in his 2021 season. I don’t think the Pirates should bank on this happening, as they run the risk of having no one but Bednar if the depth falls apart. Adding a veteran leverage reliever can help to keep the middle relief depth strong in middle relief, rather than demanding that someone step up to fill a need. This will also add more structure and options to the bullpen, making Derek Shelton’s job easier — especially during the dog days of summer.

Pirates Prospects Daily: Spring Training Non Roster Invitees To Watch

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced a slew of new non-roster invitees to Spring Training on Thursday, even sneaking in a new minor league signing in it — veteran infielder Chris Owings. There are plenty of expected names that got the invite for big league camp, including the three first round picks made under Ben Cherington, as well as some other promising players throughout the system. While catching a look at some of the top prospects is an obvious must, to see how they do surrounded by major league players, here are three other names worth watching during camp.

Jared Jones

The team’s second round pick back in Cherington’s first draft, Jones still has some of the best raw stuff in the entire system. He led all Pirates minor league pitchers in strikeouts, and doubled his innings pitched from the previous season. He struggled with his control a bit, and was hit pretty hard in High-A, but if there is a breakout candidate that already possesses great stuff, Jones is it. Getting some time around some big leaguers, including veteran Rich Hill, who was drafted one year (2002) after Jones was born (2001), may go a long way into helping the young righty put it all together.

Matt Gorski

An injury derailed the absolute breakout season he was having, as Gorski could have made a legit push for a 30/30 season. He has some of the best power in the system, but also most of his damage was done in High-A Greensboro (as an older player for the level) and also still showed some swing and miss concerns throughout the year. While Spring Training results rarely tell the full story of things, it will be interesting to see how he fares against major league pitching, should he get the opportunity.  His ability to hit for power, and play a strong center field, could make him an ideal early season call up should they need a right-handed bat not on the 40-man. A strong showing in camp can put him in that position.

Chris Owings

When the Pirates announced the non-roster invitees, they also used it as an opportunity to announce the signing of Chris Owings — a major league veteran who has played almost every position in the field. Owings had a brief outburst of offense with the Colorado Rockies, but has been mostly a below average hitter the majority of his career. The only reason this signing is noteworthy is that he is a potential right-handed bat that can also play both middle-infield positions. Pittsburgh has no shortage of options to play the middle infield positions, but since the trade of Kevin Newman, they don’t have any right-handers with major league experience. Fangraphs has him as a positive defender at second base for his career, as does Baseball-Reference. There’s a scenario that could play out where Owings plays second and Rodolfo Castro is at shortstop against a lefty, to give Oneil Cruz a day off. This could be a depth signing, but with how crowded the infield picture is in the minors, and his major league experience, this seems more like a ‘let’s give him a shot because he potentially fills a need’.

Bonus: Termarr Johnson

It probably shouldn’t be a complete surprise that your most recent fourth overall pick ends up in major league camp, but with a June birthday, he will still be 18-years-old during Spring Training. Really it’s just a good experience for one of the most hyped prep prospects to come through the draft in some time.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams **The Pirates announced their non-roster invitees yesterday, including the signing of veteran infielder Chris Owings. **The Athletic ranked the Pirates as the sixth best farm system. ESPN followed up by ranking them ninth. **Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at the strong depth at third base throughout the Pirates organization.

Song of the Day

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RyInjfgNc4

Pirates Prospects Weekly

Ethan Hullihen is working on a new feature to create a Glossary of transaction details on the site. His first installment is a look at how Optional and Outright Assignments work.

Pirates Business: How Do Optional and Outright Assignments Work? Wilbur Miller looked at the Pirates’ 2019 draft, which is led by Quinn Priester, but has a lot of other interesting prospects still around. WTM: The Pirates’ Quirky 2019 Draft Bubba Chandler was a highlight of the 2021 draft, and Anthony Murphy looked at the progress and potential he showed during his debut season. Bubba Chandler Showed Progress and Potential In His Debut Season

ESPN Ranks the Pirates as the Ninth Best Farm System

One day after Keith Law at The Athletic ranked the Pittsburgh Pirates as the sixth best farm system, Kiley McDaniel from ESPN has the Pirates ranked as the ninth best system. McDaniel uses a system where the players are given a value, then you add up that value to get a value for the entire system. That system put the Pirates just behind the eighth place team (Texas Rangers), but well behind the seventh place Tampa Bay Rays. The Pirates had three top 100 prospects for McDaniel, and three others who received honorable mention. Yesterday’s list had the Pirates third in the National League behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers. That placed them first among NL Central clubs. Today’s list has the Diamondbacks and Dodgers ahead of the Pirates, but the Cincinnati Reds are fifth on the list, placing the Pirates second in the division and fourth in the league. The rest of the NL Central ranks tenth (St Louis Cardinals), 11th (Chicago Cubs) and 15th (Milwaukee Brewers). Both lists released so far for farm system rankings have all five NL Central teams in the top half of MLB. When we get more of these lists, we can look at an average ranking for the Pirates vs the division/league.