This weekend I uploaded the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Spring Training Tracker to the site. This is the fourth year in a row that we’ve had the tracker on the site. Prior to Spring Training it will show all of the non-roster invitees who are invited to camp, along with the chances of each player making the Opening Day roster. Once Spring Training begins, the tracker will be updated any time a player is cut from camp, or whenever a player’s projection changes.
Currently I project four position battles in Spring Training. Those are first base, one bench spot, one bullpen spot, and one rotation spot.
The Pirates are expected to go with a platoon at first base, pairing someone with Gaby Sanchez. The two internal contenders for the job are Andrew Lambo and Chris McGuiness. It’s still possible that the Pirates could trade for a first baseman, but if they don’t make a move, I project the starter to be one of those two players. I have Sanchez listed on the bench, rather than first base, since the right-handed hitter in the platoon gets less playing time.
The bench looks to be almost set. Chris Stewart was acquired over the off-season to be the backup catcher. Clint Barmes was signed to be a backup middle infielder. Sanchez will take one bench spot as part of the first base platoon. I have Travis Snider and Jose Tabata projected to make the roster, since both players are out of options and being paid more than alternatives like Jaff Decker. Right now I have Snider listed as the right fielder, but I think they will get a split of playing time. That means one of the two will be on the bench. Overall that leaves one bench spot remaining. I’d say the front runner from the remaining group would be Josh Harrison. He makes a lot of sense for this team, as he hit left-handers well last year, plays second and third base, and can play outfield in an emergency.
The starting rotation has Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton in the first three spots. Edinson Volquez was signed for $5 M, so he will also get a rotation spot. That leaves one remaining spot. This spot is most likely going to Wandy Rodriguez, although I left it open due to questions about Rodriguez’s health. The Pirates insist that Rodriguez will be healthy, and if he is, I think he gets the spot. If Rodriguez isn’t healthy, then I think Jeff Locke becomes the front runner for the job. I also listed Brandon Cumpton, Phil Irwin, and Stolmy Pimentel as dark horse candidates for the job.
The bullpen is in a situation where there are more players than roster spots. The current guarantees would be Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, and Justin Wilson. Beyond those four, the Pirates have four players out of options. I project Vin Mazzaro and Jeanmar Gomez to make the roster, so that covers two of the four players who are out of options. Beyond those two, there’s Bryan Morris and Stolmy Pimentel fighting for the final spot. It’s possible that an injury could occur during Spring Training, which would create room for both players. If there isn’t an injury, then I could see a trade by the end of Spring Training. It would make more sense to deal Mazzaro or Gomez, since Morris and Pimentel have more team control and similar or better upsides. I have a lot of other players listed as contenders for the bullpen role, but I think that it will come down to the above eight players, barring injuries.
If the above is the case, then Andy Oliver would have to be designated for assignment, since he is out of options. If Oliver cleared waivers, the Pirates could outright him to Triple-A and keep him for another season. Oliver had a bad season in 2013, with horrible control. However, left-handers with his velocity always get chances — just look at how many teams took a chance on Mike Zagurski last year. It’s not a bad thing if the Pirates try to keep Oliver around, but they might have a problem trying to get him through waivers in the process.
Click here to go to the tracker and bookmark it as it will be updated frequently. Pitchers and catchers report on February 13th.