The Pirates have announced 19 additional non-roster invitees for MLB Spring Training. The list includes a lot of interesting prospects, highlighted by Austin Meadows and Kevin Newman. It also includes some familiar names, like Brandon Cumpton, Casey Sadler, and Angel Sanchez. Here is the full list, with info on each player to follow:
Brandon Cumpton has missed the last two seasons due to multiple surgeries, one for his shoulder and the other was Tommy John surgery. He has spent a lot of time at Pirate City rehabbing since his last big league game back in 2014. Cumpton has no shot to make the team out of Spring Training, but it will be nice to see him back out on the mound as he tries to get back to the majors.
Cody Dickson gets his first invitation to big league camp. He has no shot of making the club and will be among the first cuts. His stuff is better than the results, so he does have a shot to make the majors if he learns to attack hitters and trust his pitches. He could open the season either at Altoona or Indianapolis.
Frank Duncan put up outstanding numbers as a starter last year between Altoona and Indianapolis, and they came from someone who began the year late due to an oblique injury, then went to the bullpen. He doesn’t have a shot at making the big league club, but he put himself on the prospect map last year. He doesn’t have the best stuff, but his command could be the best in the system, which gives him a chance to make the majors sometime this season.
Tyler Eppler gets his first big league camp after leading the entire system in innings pitched while with Altoona. He throws a fastball that sits 92-95 MPH, and was working on a new pitch late in the season to help with strikeouts. He could end up in the rotation for the Pirates one day, but it probably won’t be this year, at least not before a September trial.
Jared Lakind was brought back on a minor league deal after reaching minor league free agency this off-season. He has a chance to be a middle reliever in the majors someday due to his ability to get lefties out. He started his pro career at first base, so there is still room for improvement with more experience on the mound. He won’t make the majors out of Spring Training and he’s behind some other solid relief options, but we might see him in September if all goes well.
Casey Sadler missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery. He has no shot to make the big league club, but as a former Major League player who re-signed as a free agent this off-season, he was bound to get an invite.
Angel Sanchez also missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery. He was emerging as a prospect in 2015 before the injury. He’s a little older due to a late start in pro ball, but there is still a chance for him to contribute at the big league level. He won’t make the team out of Spring Training though.
Edgar Santana dominated the Arizona Fall League with a 0.00 ERA. That was after putting up impressive stats between three levels in the minors, beginning at Bradenton and finishing at Indianapolis. He throws mid-90s, with a plus slider. He can pick up both strikeouts and quick outs via ground balls. Santana might have a slim chance to win a big league job out of Spring Training, but he could probably use more Triple-A time first. Along with Dovydas Neverauskas, they are the top two relief prospects in the minors.
Jin-De Jhang gets a chance to see what it’s like in big league camp, but he has no realistic shot at making the team. He will probably spend all of 2017 in the minors, although if he shows improvements on defense while continuing to hit for average, then he could see Pittsburgh in September.
Christian Kelley is in big league camp because you need plenty of catchers for Spring Training. He’s a solid defensive catcher, who showed some nice improvements at the plate, even if the numbers don’t show that, the approach was better and he was hitting the ball with more authority. He has no shot at the big league club (he’s slated for Bradenton) and will be among the first cuts.
Jacob Stallings had two trials with the Pirates in 2016 before they dropped him from the 40-man roster. He remained in the system and he gives the Pirates a strong defensive catcher, who works well with the young pitchers in the system. He doesn’t have a shot to win a big league spot unless there are multiple injuries, and the guy just below could be higher on the depth chart if that happens…
Jackson Williams gives the Pirates an experienced veteran catcher for the young pitchers in the minors. He will be given a chance to win a big league spot, and he has Major League experience, but he would need some injuries before he’s really considered for the Pirates. He was just signed last week. As mentioned with Kelley, you need plenty of catchers for Spring Training. Williams has Gold Glove caliber defense according to many scouts, but his hitting has always held him back.
Kevin Newman doesn’t have a shot to win a job out of Spring Training, but he will be one of the better prospects in camp. He split the 2016 season between Bradenton and Altoona, tearing the cover off the ball in High-A, before slowing down in Double-A. He could make his big league debut later this season, so it’s good to get him some exposure on the Major League side of Spring Training.
Jason Rogers was recently sent outright to Indianapolis after he cleared waivers. He was designated for assignment right before Christmas. He has an outside chance of making the big league club, especially if he plays more like the 2015 version, who was a solid bench piece for the Brewers. Rogers is currently hitting well in the playoffs in the Dominican, and getting time in left field.
Erich Weiss played a solid second base for Altoona in 2016. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he does a lot of things right. He’s projected to be a bench player in the majors down the road, so big league camp is a good experience for the 25-year-old.
Eric Wood was our breakout position player of the year, showing improvements across the board in defense, power, getting on base and cutting down his strikeouts. He then went on to have a terrific AFL season, before slowing down in winter ball in the Dominican. He has no chance to make the big league club out of Spring Training, but if he continues his success in Triple-A, we could see him in the majors later this season.
Barrett Barnes had a breakout season last year, which really started in June. On June 3rd, he had a .688 OPS, then kicked it into gear and finished with an .853 OPS. He was our Player of the Month in both July and August, our first back-to-back winner. Barnes doesn’t have any shot of making the big league club out of Spring Training, but it’s a good experience before he heads to Indianapolis this season.
Austin Meadows is the big name in this group. This will be his first Spring Training with the Pirates. Players like him usually are among the first ones cut, so they can get back to playing regularly in minor league camp. It gives him a sample of big league life before he makes the majors. Tim Williams caught up with him on Monday.
Danny Ortiz was recently re-signed as a minor league free agent after spending the 2016 season at Indianapolis. He won the batting title and led the league in OPS this winter down in Puerto Rico. Ortiz plays a strong center field and has some power in his bat. He should see regular playing time at Indianapolis and be a depth option for the Pirates, but it’s unlikely he gets a real shot to make the team out of Spring Training.