Update On Players Who Are Out Of Options

Morton is one of a few players who would have to be designated for assignment if he didn't make the Opening Day roster.

With a handful of players who are both on the bubble and out of options, the Pirates will be facing some tough roster decisions at the end of March. What follows is a quick rundown of players fighting for roster spots who have no options remaining. I’ve omitted players who are locks to make the team, like James McDonald and Joel Hanrahan. Also, as most of you are probably aware, the Pirates secured an extra option for Steve Pearce, so he’s not on this list. Of course, non-roster invitees who are on minor league contracts, like Tyler Yates and Justin Thomas, can be sent to the minors without being optioned.  A rundown of NRIs can be found here.

Charlie Morton – So far this spring, Morton has been one of the team’s best pitchers, posting a 2.25 ERA and allowing just five hits and one walk over eight innings. The team believes he’s benefited from bringing back his sinker, which he scrapped a couple years ago. He’s also benefiting from Neal Huntington’s continued belief that he has the potential to be a good major league starter, despite his disastrous 2010 season. With Scott Olsen only now just getting ready to pitch in games, Morton has a big leg up on the fifth starter’s role. Even if he somehow doesn’t get it, he’ll almost certainly be in the bullpen.

Chris Resop – Resop’s strong showing after the Pirates acquired him on waivers last summer almost guarantees him a bullpen job. With eight strikeouts in six innings, combined with only four hits and one walk, he hasn’t done anything to blow it.

Kevin Hart – Following labrum surgery a year ago, Hart has had a slow recovery. He only began pitching from a mound recently, so there’s no chance he’ll be anywhere near ready to pitch in the majors at the start of the season. He’ll almost certainly open the season on the disabled list, which will allow the Pirates to send him on a minor league rehab for a month. The trouble is, considering the difficulty in returning from shoulder surgery, one month may not be long enough. It’s possible, though, that Hart’s health issues would discourage teams from claiming him on waivers. The Pirates would then be able to outright him to the minors.

Jose Ascanio – Like Hart, Ascanio is coming off labrum surgery, but he’s much farther along in his recovery. He was able to pitch very briefly last summer before a household accident cut short his return. He also pitched in winter ball. He’s been set back temporarily this spring, though, by soreness that the Pirates believe is minor. Before that, he probably had a very good chance of making the team. Ascanio has one of the best arms on the 40-man roster and was pitching very well in AAA when they acquired him. They’ll be very reluctant to lose him. If he isn’t able to make the team, they’re likely to put him on the disabled list to start the season. In his case, unlike Hart’s, a 30-day rehab might be enough to get him ready for the majors.

Jeff Karstens – Karstens is generally considered a lock to make the staff, but he shouldn’t be. His primary attraction to the Pirates is his ability to serve as a swing man. He gives them an emergency starter and long reliever who’ll generally pitch decently, but who isn’t likely ever to do more than that. The biggest drawback with him is that he hasn’t pitched well in relief during his major league career so far, with an ERA of 5.87 and WHIP of 1.5, as opposed to 4.78 and 1.4 as a starter. Depending on how the issues with pitchers like Morton, Olsen, Ascanio and Hart work out, the Pirates could decide to drop Karstens for somebody with more upside. He’s already been designated for assignment once, so he could declare himself a free agent if the Pirates removed him from the 40-man roster again.

John Bowker – This may be the toughest case of all. Bowker’s shown significant power potential in AAA, but he’s 27 and has yet to produce at the major league level. He was limited briefly by a minor injury this spring, but in a small number of at-bats he’s been one of the team’s best hitters. The acquisition of Matt Diaz left possibly only one bench spot available for a 1B/OF bat, although it could be two if the Pirates trade Ryan Doumit and go with only one utility infielder. Bowker faces competition from Steve Pearce, Garrett Atkins, Josh Fields, and Andy Marte, but Pearce, Atkins and Fields have all struggled so far. It’d be unfortunate for the Pirates to lose Bowker, not least because of the risk that Garrett Jones—who’s also struggling this spring—won’t recover from his second half collapse of last year. With power becoming increasingly hard to find, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t clear waivers.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article


Wilbur Miller joined the site in July 2010. He has long been known for his excellent Player Profiles, which he brought to the site in February 2011, combining them with the existing Pirates Prospects Player Pages. Wilbur maintains the player pages section of the site, and provides regular articles to the main portion of the site, including a weekly Prospects Trend piece, featuring the best and worst prospects from the previous week.

Pirates Prospects Annual now available in paperback version

Next Story »

Andrew Lambo and Chase D’Arnaud Go To AAA

  • Chris Miller

    you said the team believes Morton has benefitted from bringing back his 2-seam fastball… Did you mean his sinker? or has he actually brought back 2 pitches from the grave

    • PITTSBURGH4_1_2

      a 2 seam fastball is a sinker

      • Anonymous

        It is interesting that most games I’ve seen (including baseball mogul and ea sports baseball have always had the sinker and two-seamer as two seperate pitches. I wonder why that is? With all the baseball I watch and follow I never really realized a sinker and a two seamer were the same thing. It’s kind of embarassing but I am guessing even most announcers don’t make the distinction or i would have picked up on this long ago. I have even read the Neyer/James book on pitchers and still didn’t pick up on this. I played 12 years of baseball but never pitched. I’ll use that as my excuse!

    • Wilbur Miller

      Sorry, should have been sinker. I’ll fix it.

  • Wilbur Miller

    I think that varies some from pitcher to pitcher.

Latest Analysis

  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    9 hours ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    1 day ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    2 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    4 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    5 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    6 days ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    1 week ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    1 week ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    1 week ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Third Base Mathisen Luplow Joe

    Who’s on Third? In the Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone

    2 weeks ago

    If you have ever played third base in your life — professional, college, high school, slow pitch softball — then the Pittsburgh Pirates might be contacting you ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles