First Pitch: Some Early Thoughts From Big League Camp

A lot can happen in the next three and a half weeks to shape up the Opening Day roster. We’ve only seen a small sample size from each player here, and while some players are standing out, it’s important to keep that perspective about the lack of playing time.

That said, here are some of my thoughts on the early part of camp, all coming with the disclaimer that it’s still early, and the results so far don’t mean much.

The Rotation

It’s hard to get a read on any pitchers at this point, since all of them are “getting their work in“. Some of them aren’t even throwing their full arsenal. So this won’t be as much about the performances. Instead it will be an observation about the injuries. We knew coming into camp that Francisco Liriano probably wasn’t making the Opening Day squad. Jeff Karstens went down, and is just starting to throw bullpens. That doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be ready for the season. A.J. Burnett didn’t start pitching until the third week of March last year, and he only missed the very start of the 2012 season. Under the same timeframe, Karstens would be on pace for Opening Day, but it would be close.

That could mean that Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson could both make the Opening Day squad, at least for one turn through the rotation. Jonathan Sanchez could also compete for a spot, although his control was pretty horrible in the outing I saw last week.

The thing to keep an eye on would be Karstens’ time table. It wouldn’t be a huge deal if Locke and McPherson started the year in the rotation, since we’re probably only talking one start. Having Karstens take over for one of those two provides a bit more comfort than having two rookies in the rotation from day one.

Corner Outfield

Coming into camp the consensus seemed to be that Travis Snider was the favorite to win one of the outfield spots. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jose Tabata wins that spot, with Snider serving as the fourth outfielder. That’s partly due to the small sample of performances. It’s also the quality of play. Tabata has been going all out and looks much better than he did last year. Snider has looked bad in his at-bats. This is one of those situations where a lot can change over the next few weeks. If tomorrow was Opening Day, I’d guess Tabata would be starting over Snider.

On that same note, Jerry Sands isn’t looking good early. He’s got an option, which is something Travis Snider doesn’t have, so that’s not a huge concern in the short term.

Gaby Sanchez

Another opinion based on small sample sizes, but Gaby Sanchez is looking good. If he keeps this up, he could return to those 2010-11 numbers. That would make a strong platoon with Garrett Jones at first base.

Sanchez has been getting some time at third base, but I don’t see anything coming from that. The only time it would make sense to start him instead of Alvarez would be if there was a tough left-hander on the mound. If that were the case, it would also make sense to start him over Jones at first, which seems more likely to happen.

Daily Photos

I didn’t take a lot of photos today, and none of Cole since I was paying closer attention to his pitches.

Stolmy Pimentel

Stolmy Pimentel

Carlos Paulino

Carlos Paulino

Anderson Hernandez

Anderson Hernandez

Links and Notes

**Pirates Notebook: Gerrit Cole Dominates, But Don’t Expect Him To Make the Team.

**Tony Sanchez Has the Defense, But Can He Hit in the Majors?

**I won’t be covering the big league team tomorrow in Fort Myers. Instead, I’ll be spending the day at Pirate City, most likely taking in live BPs.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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