This morning I uploaded the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Spring Training tracker. We have that resource on the site every year, allowing you to keep track of who has been invited to Spring Training, and their chances of making the team. The tracker also shows who is still remaining in camp once things kick off and cuts begin.
As for this year’s tracker? It’s kind of boring. The Pirates have almost no position battles this Spring. Their starting lineup is set. Their bench is set. The rotation has four spots, with two out-of-options pitchers competing for the final spot. One of those two will go to the bullpen, leaving two more spots for three likely pitchers. On paper, there’s not much suspense heading into camp.
The starting lineup will return a lot of the 2014 starters. The key differences are that Pedro Alvarez will take over first base, and Francisco Cervelli replaces Russell Martin behind the plate. The bench looks set with a lot of Plan B options for the starting lineup. Corey Hart will platoon at first base and could be a backup plan for Alvarez. Sean Rodriguez will be a super utility player. Chris Stewart returns as the backup catcher. Travis Snider will be the fourth outfielder, and could be a backup if one of the outfielders gets hurt, or if Gregory Polanco struggles. And when Jung-Ho Kang is signed, he will be expected to take a utility infield role.
Most of the other position players have options, which means the Pirates can send them to Triple-A with ease. The exception is Pedro Florimon, who is a strong defensive shortstop and is out of options. The Pirates could option Kang to the minors at the start of the year, giving him time to adjust to the U.S., and that would also allow them to keep Florimon on the roster. But eventually, they’d have to make a decision. The fact that they have Gustavo Nunez and Gift Ngoepe in the upper levels — both strong defensive shortstops themselves — means they could possibly take a chance on putting Florimon through waivers.
The rotation looks mostly set, with Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Charlie Morton expected to take the first four spots on Opening Day. The fifth spot will be a battle between Jeff Locke and Vance Worley, who are both out of options. If Charlie Morton can’t return on Opening Day, then the Pirates won’t have to make a decision right away with Locke and Worley. However, based on the reports on Morton’s status this off-season, it seems a decision will come sooner, rather than later, and Morton could likely be ready on Opening Day.
Whoever loses the fifth starter battle will get a spot in the bullpen, joining Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, and Antonio Bastardo. I’m putting Radhames Liz as a lock for the bullpen, since I don’t think the Pirates would have signed him to a guaranteed deal if he wasn’t going to make the team. That leaves two remaining spots for three likely pitchers. In a previous version of this article I wrote that Jared Hughes and Stolmy Pimentel were both out of options. I mis-calculated the options for Hughes, who has one remaining. I’ve got those two, plus John Holdzkom, for the final two spots, and I think Holdzkom has the inside track due to his stuff and performance last year. That means the Pirates will have a choice between optioning Hughes — who had a better season and is projected to make $1.1 M — or designating Pimentel for assignment and potentially losing him for nothing while never really giving him a real shot to see what he can do. The rest of the pitchers in camp have options, making their decisions easy.
All of this is on paper, and doesn’t factor in potential injuries that could crop up in Spring Training. An injury to the starting lineup would likely be filled by a bench player, making room for someone like Pedro Florimon or Justin Sellers. An injury in the rotation would allow Locke and Worley to make the team as starters, and any further injuries would result in someone like Brandon Cumpton coming up for a short time.
That’s about the only way I see most of the invited players making the team. There won’t be any situations like last year at first base, where an NRI guy like Travis Ishikawa has a chance to win a job in camp. This year, the roster looks pretty much set.