Yesterday I started previewing some of the position battles that you can expect at each level during Spring Training. The first preview was the 2015 Indianapolis Indians. As usual, most of the Triple-A position battles are a result of a fall-out from the battles in MLB camp. Since there aren’t really any battles in MLB camp this year, and since there aren’t many surprises in those battles, it was easier to project who might be fighting for Triple-A spots.
As a result, that makes it easier to project who will be battling for Double-A spots. In previous years, you never really knew who would be in Altoona until the last week of camp, since a late cut in MLB Spring Training would push someone down from Indianapolis to Altoona at the last minute. This year there don’t seem to be many potential surprises. That’s not saying there are none. For example, I could totally see Gift Ngoepe returning to Altoona, and Gustavo Nunez making the Indianapolis roster, even though I had Ngoepe projected in yesterday’s article. And that would have a chain reaction that might cost one of the bench players below a roster spot.
Just like with yesterday’s preview, I sat down with a copy of the 2015 Prospect Guide, got a feel for who might have a shot to make it to this level, and was able to discover where there might be log jams on the roster. Just like yesterday, pitching is the excess, although a new twist here is that the team is short on outfield prospects. Below are the projections, along with some analysis for each section.
C – Sebastian Valle
1B – Josh Bell
2B – Max Moroff
SS – Adam Frazier
3B – Edward Salcedo
LF – Jose Osuna
CF – Junior Sosa
RF – Willy Garcia
DH – Eric Wood
Bench – Walker Gourley, Jacob Stallings, Dan Gamache, Drew Maggi
Battling For a Spot – Kawika Emsley-Pai, Justin Howard, Jon Schwind, Andy Vasquez, Kelson Brown
Analysis – The biggest position battle in the lineup will come at third base. The Pirates recently added Edward Salcedo in a trade with the Braves, and I’d think he would get a lot of playing time at third. However, the Pirates also have Eric Wood for third base, and Dan Gamache, who can play second and third. Salcedo has also played right field, but that position is locked down by Willy Garcia.
Altoona doesn’t really have any good outfield options, especially with Josh Bell moving to first base. That’s why I’ve got Jose Osuna moving to left field. This might be a disaster, but it would get his bat in the lineup each day. Junior Sosa isn’t really a prospect, but has a lot of range, and seems like the best bet, and possibly the only option, for center field. The Pirates could have Garcia playing center field, shifting Salcedo to right and putting Wood at third base. However, Garcia has lost some range since he first entered the system, and is better suited for right field, especially with his plus arm.
Drew Maggi and Walker Gourley are both super utility players. Andy Vasquez, Kelson Brown, and Jon Schwind could compete for their spots. Schwind had a good season last year in Bradenton. He has also been close to Josh Bell for the last two years in West Virginia and Bradenton. I could see the Pirates giving him a spot just to keep that relationship available to Bell.
Sebastian Valle looks like a Plan E for the MLB catcher position. He’d probably be a candidate for Triple-A with other teams, but I’d expect him to go to Altoona so that he can get regular playing time. He won’t be getting that in Indianapolis with Elias Diaz on the roster. Jacob Stallings has developed a good relationship with the current pitching staff, and is a good defensive catcher, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets more playing time than a backup normally gets.
SP – Tyler Glasnow
SP – Chad Kuhl
SP – Jason Creasy
SP – John Kuchno
SP – Angel Sanchez
Analysis – The top four guys look like locks for the Altoona rotation, especially with their performances in the Bradenton rotation last year. Angel Sanchez seems like the most likely candidate for the final spot. The Pirates claimed him off waivers last year, and were able to retain him over the off-season after designating him for assignment. There are some other candidates who could start, and who have started in previous years, including Zack Dodson, Tom Harlan, Orlando Castro, and A.J. Morris. Sanchez has the highest upside of that group.
RP – Matt Nevarez
RP – Zack Dodson
RP – Yhonathan Barrios
RP – Ryan Beckman
RP – Tom Harlan
RP – Orlando Castro
RP – A.J. Morris
Battling For a Spot – Jeff Inman, Pat Ludwig, Joan Montero, Chris Peacock, Tyler Sample, Nate Baker, Matt Benedict
Analysis – There will be some tough decisions when it comes to the Altoona bullpen. A few of the guys I have listed as battling for a spot could very easily make the team. For example, the Pirates signed Chris Peacock this off-season after he was hitting 97 MPH in the independent leagues. They didn’t sign him just to cut him after Spring Training. Jeff Inman has hit 100 MPH in the past, and posted good numbers last year. His career has been derailed by injuries, but the stuff is better than most of the guys listed in the current bullpen. The guys I have listed in the bullpen are players that the Pirates have given preference to in previous years with playing time.
Ultimately, all of these guys profile as middle relievers in the majors, at best. A few of them have the stuff to be better than that, depending on how their development goes. So the Pirates wouldn’t be losing a ton of talent when they cut someone from this group. That doesn’t mean the decision will be any less difficult.