Minor League games started yesterday for the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving a first look at the potential rosters for the start of the 2014 season. At this point in Spring Training, the rosters are far from set. Some guys know their assignments, while other guys are up in the air. In the upper levels, a lot can change based on the cuts that take place in Major League camp. The lower levels are a bit more concrete at this stage. Guys will get pushed down from Indianapolis to Altoona, but generally guys don’t get pushed back to A-ball to block someone on the way up.
Here is a very early look at the rosters for the full season teams. Expect a lot of this to change, especially with the top two levels. I put notes at the bottom of each section with expected changes.
Notes: Tony Sanchez will eventually be the starter with Indianapolis. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paulino stick around as a backup, although Nevin Ashley could take that role, with Paulino moving to Altoona.
Notes: I’d expect a lot of these guys to move down to Altoona by the time the Major League cuts are finished. A few of them might stick around as bench/DH options, but the majority will be forced down by the end of camp.
Notes: If these guys stick around with Indianapolis, it will be as bench players. The starting outfield projects to be Gregory Polanco, Jaff Decker, and Chris Dickerson.
Notes: I’m surprised to see Arribas here, since he’s only played in the GCL. I think that’s more about needing catchers and getting him playing time. I could see him opening the season in Jamestown. Other than that, I think this group looks about right, with the possible late addition of Paulino moving down from Triple-A.
Notes: This group has a lot of shortstops, and Alen Hanson will get the bulk of the time there. Most of the other guys are middle infield options. It makes you wonder what will happen with third base. Will Dan Gamache move back to that position? He didn’t look good defensively at second last year, but he doesn’t have the power for third base. As for first base, Allie will start there. Justin Howard should get some time at first, along with DH and outfield. Matt Curry, recovering from hamate surgery last year, could also eventually factor into the mix.
Notes: Garcia and Rojas combine to give the Altoona outfield some of the biggest upside in the system. The problem with those two is that they are very raw. Rojas will return to the level for his second year, while Garcia makes the jump from High-A, despite less than impressive numbers. I’ve always seen Garcia as a guy who has the same impact-type upside as Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson. Polanco has definitely separated himself from the group, but Garcia could still be the outfield equivalent of Hanson. He just needs to work on his plate patience.
Notes: This group looks right. Jhang is the better hitting prospect, and the top prospect of the group. However, Stallings works great with pitchers, and the Pirates seem to love his defense.
Notes: Max Moroff was getting time at second base, with Adam Frazier playing shortstop. I wouldn’t be surprised if they switch off, but I’d expect Frazier to get the most time at short. Jose Osuna will repeat the season in Bradenton, after a disappointing year last year. At third base they’ve got Walker Gourley — who is athletic enough to play anywhere on the field — and Eric Wood. Wood is the better third base prospect, but both players are projects.
Notes: The key guy to watch here will be Josh Bell. Raul Fortunato is an interesting prospect. He’s very athletic, and has shown a decent hitting ability in the past. He could be a sleeper to reach the majors one day as a bench player. Jeff Roy has a ton of speed, and should be a playmaker on both sides of the ball due to that speed.
Notes: McGuire will get the majority of the playing time behind the plate, but expect Mathisen to get plenty of time as well. Both guys need to show that they can hit, so expect one to serve as the DH when the other is behind the plate.
Notes: The most interesting thing here is that JaCoby Jones is back at shortstop. He’s very athletic, and has a promising bat, which makes him a key guy to watch on this team. Trae Arbet is an interesting name on this list. The Pirates gave him an over-slot bonus in last year’s draft, but he looked raw in the GCL last year. He worked on his swing over the off-season, and it will be interesting to see how that works for him this year. With Jones playing shortstop, I’d expect Arbet to be dropped down to Jamestown, where he can get regular playing time. Edwin Espinal is an interesting first base prospect. He’s very raw, but has a ton of power potential. Erich Weiss is one of the few third base prospects in the system, and probably the top option. However, he’s more of a project, and doesn’t rank in our top 50, which says a lot about the third base depth in the system.
Notes: This outfield will be fun to watch with Meadows, Ramirez, and Barnes. Meadows is currently dealing with a hamstring issue, but told me today that he has been taking swings and will be testing the exercise bike next week. Ramirez opened a lot of eyes last year with his bat, and could continue to do so with a strong season in West Virginia. Barnes has dealt with a lot of injuries, and struggled in his time with West Virginia last year. He still has a lot of upside, but needs to stay healthy in order to keep his development on track. Escobar is a high upside guy that I like, but he seems to be stuck behind the big three in this group. Nick Buckner has a lot of power potential, but poor plate patience. I’d expect him to go to Jamestown.