The roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates almost seems set. There are technically two bullpen spots available, but there is a pretty good idea who the Pirates will go with. There is one bench spot open, and only two real candidates for that final spot. The bench battle seems up in the air, with closer to 50/50 odds than the bullpen decisions. You add in some of the roster questions (Will Clayton Richard stick around? What will happen with the out-of-option players?), and the rest of this week should be about confirming what is largely expected to happen.

After all of the discussions this Spring with Clint Hurdle, Neal Huntington, and just watching how the Pirates have constructed their team, here are my predictions for the final moves.

The Bullpen

I’m going with Arquimedes Caminero and Jared Hughes here. Caminero is a lock at this point, making the final decision between Hughes and Stolmy Pimentel. The Pirates showed today that they aren’t afraid to option a good pitcher to Indianapolis in order to preserve depth. They sent John Holdzkom down, although that was mostly to create a spot for Caminero. I don’t think the decision between Pimentel and Hughes will be on the same level. The Pirates seem to like Hughes a lot, and while they like the stuff and upside with Pimentel, I don’t see them picking him over Hughes. That’s especially true when you consider how infrequently they used Pimentel last year, and how much they used Hughes.

Pimentel would have to be designated for assignment, raising the question of what will happen to him. I still like his stuff, and think the best case scenario would have him clearing waivers and going to Indianapolis, where they could use him as a starter and try to get him on track. But Pimentel has some upside as a starter, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a rebuilding team with nothing to lose takes a shot at him.

The Bench

This one seems close, and if you would have asked me any other time in camp, I would have felt that Andrew Lambo was a lock for the final spot. Part of what made Lambo seem like a lock was the fact that he was left-handed, which is something the Pirates lack on their bench right now. They also lack speed and a true shortstop. Pedro Florimon can bring both of those things.

Complicating matters is the fact that Florimon is out of options, while Lambo can be sent to Triple-A. This is very similar to the Holdzkom/Caminero decision. You’ve got a guy who had amazing results in Triple-A, and you kind of want to see what he can do with a role in the majors. But there’s another guy who the team loves, and who looks intriguing enough that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him a look early in the season, rather than losing him to the waiver process.

Right now my prediction would be Florimon getting the final spot, with the Pirates focusing on the lack of options, along with the speed and defense off the bench.

Clayton Richard

The opt out decision for Clayton Richard was due yesterday, and I’m guessing we’ll hear something on the subject tomorrow. (UPDATE: Richard decided to stay with the Pirates) I’ve said this many times, but I’ll say it again: I don’t see Richard opting out. He came to this team in order for them to get him back on track. This was after he had a conversation with former teammate, and 2014 Pirates reclamation project, Edinson Volquez. He’s been open to all of the changes proposed so far. The Pirates seem to really like him, and have been encouraged by the progress. They’ve got him in line as an early season depth option for the rotation.

The best case for Richard is that he finds a team willing to put him in the rotation today, which might be a short-term upgrade. But that team might not have the track record of the Pirates when it comes to fixing pitchers, which could hurt him in the long run. He seems to want to be here, and it would be hard to imagine him finding a better situation elsewhere. I’m predicting he stays with the team.

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**Pirates Ranked As The Seventh Most Talented Organization. Not bad for a contending team that has traded away some prospects and graduated top prospects to the majors in each of the last three seasons.

**Minor League Injury Updates: Holmes, Heredia, Ramirez, Luplow, Eppler, Frazier, Singh. A ton of updates here as we get closer to the start of the minor league season.

**Breaking Down The Final Pirates Roster Battles After Today’s Cuts. All of the analysis from the roster moves.

**Pirates Send John Holdzkom And Two Others To The Minors. And the roster moves themselves.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t disagree that they may keep Florimon, but really……what value does he bring? In a team that has as much speed as we do in the lineup, do we really need speed off the bench? We have very few players currently whom clog up the basepaths and this kid isn’t exactly Vince Coleman, lets be serious. Who cares that he is a “shortstop” guess what, Kang is and Rodriguez has played ALOT of shortstop. Do we need 4 shortstop options? Kang needs to play, and how is going to get playing time when here is another defensive first shortstop Hurdle can parade out there.

    Lambo provides more value as far as i can see, and the kid really needs an opportunity, even if its a bench opportunity. Give him a chance to acclimate himself so if Pedro flops or Mr. Glass shows his age or injures himself again we have him already seeing quality pitching. 13th inning two outs…….pitchers spot up…..lambo or florimon? I just really can’t see a single situation where Florimon really provides any benefit on this particular team. Last year…….I would have kept him

  2. Pirates 3, Baltimore 3 at the end of 9 innings – somehow I get the feeling the Pirates will be playing a lot of bonus baseball this year. So far this spring, they have played to 4 ties in 25 games. At that rate the Pirates will play in 27 extra inning games. The major league record is 31 by the Boston Red Sox in 1943.

    That’s the game plan for Worley 🙂
    The Pirates plan to break the 1943 record for extra inning games. Worley will pitch over 100 innings this year, all of them after the 9th.

  3. If they are so enamored with speed & defense, doesn’t Gift Ngoepe fit the bill? At least his bat has the potential to develop more than Florimon’s. Doesn’t make sense to option Lambo just to keep Florimon when you have a guy like Ngoepe at AAA, which is where Florimon would be if he had an option.

    • Its tough for a players bat to develop when he skips levels he obviously needs work in and send him to the bigs. If the team ever sees a chance of him making it to the bigs, throwing him in the majors now likely throws water on that flame.

      Gift has not played a single game in AAA, so him being at AAA is a nice way of putting a guy with no high level experience that struggled in AA. I think Gift has a future ahead of him, but he be ruined against ML pitching right now.

  4. The most starting pitchers you can have or stash is 11, right? 5 starters on the major league team, 1 in the MLB bull pen in long relief and 5 starters in AAA. We know who the 6 on the MLB roster are. We have Kingham, Crumpton and Sampson in AAA, with Tallion joining them at some point soon. (Am I missing someone?) By my count that leaves one spot open. So I would think Richard is the key. If he is willing to go to triple AAA, then they have to decide between cutting Pimentel or keeping him. What is the point to sending Pimentel down to AAA to do long relief?

    The point I am trying to make is that I’m not sure Pimentel fits into the short term or long term plans for the Pirates. If he is not one of your 5 best starters in AAA, then why keep him?

  5. I am a huge supporter of Neal Huntington. but with this last roster spot decision looming. I have to question the decision to move Travis Snider for two low minors lefty prospects. If Lambo or Florimon had a decent track record for hitting I could understand. For the 2nd straight year a ML job has been all but handed to Lambo and again he fails to take it even though he might get it. this decision of trading Snider may come back to bite us hard

    • I kinda agree. What we don’t know is how Travis would have felt being a 4th OF. He said he had mixed emotions leaving Pittsburgh. He loved playing in Pgh, but wants to start.

    • To play devil’s advocate, the trade of Snider for two LH SP prospects served several purposes. First, it was done to show Polanco he is the LFer for the Pirates for this season and beyond. Second, trading him brought back players who fill an obvious hole n the organization. And lastly, it was done to give Snider a chance to be a starter. This makes the organization look good in players and agents eyes.

      NH has to keep one eye on today and one eye on the future. This trade was an example of him looking at the big picture.

      • I agree that part of the reason to trade Snider was too help prevent Polanco from looking over his shoulder

    • Love Snyder and what he did for us last year but this was a very good trade. We got top value for him and filled a gap on the farm with left hand young arms. Like I said, love Snyder, loved the trade more.

  6. The “surplus” really screams for a trade to clear some room – not sure if their is a market for any of them – but the Bucs are in an interesting position. Lambo should be the choice for a bench bat – he provides a bat that with power potential that Floriman does not. The Sean Rodriquez trade looks like a bad idea – if it were me I would cut him and keep both Floriman and Lambo in the Burgh

  7. It’s all fun and games until it’s the 8th inning of a tie game and Pedro Florimon, who put up a wrc+ of -12 last year, is called to pinch hit. It’s a complete joke if this team thinks he should make the 25 man roster. Florimon makes Barmes look like Babe Ruth.

    • I don’t know this answer, but I bet the Pirates do. What is a more likely scenario, I pinch runner going from 1st to home on a hit or a pinch hitter hitting a home run?

      How fast IS Florimon? Is he 70 or above?

      • I feel like Gift Ngoepe would be just as good. Florimon has a .565 OPS, Ngoepe could do that with the same defense and speed, in theory.

  8. The concept of speed and defense off the bench is fine and all, but what practical place does that role actually have on this squad?

    Other than Alvarez/Hart, which starter are you pulling late in a game in order for Florimon to pinch run, and is he even *that* much of a weapon on the bases? And if Clint Barmes was largely useless in the backup defensive SS role last year, is Florimon really so good that the club will start benching Mercer late in games?

    Seems to me like one of those things that sounds good in the spring, until you’re actually forced to play with only 25 guys when it counts.

    • Excellent point. Another thing that should be considered, is that guys like Florimon are a dime a dozen. The Pirates already have a few guys in AA/AAA who are good defensive shortstops who hit like pitchers. Why keep one on the 25 man roster when there are 2 you can call up in case of injury already? There will also be approximately 12,000 guys like Florimon who get sent through waivers throughout the course of the year. He’s a completely fungible “asset”

      • Also very much agree with you here.

        Some may argue semantics with your “dime a dozen” assessment, but when it comes down to it his skill set simply isn’t *that* rare, or valuable.

        I would hope the organization is adjusting philosophy based on where they’re at right now.

      • The place to sub in Florimon would be either for Walker or for Alvarez because of the speed that surrounds them (McCutchen batting 3rd, Marte batting 5th).

        It would come into play if the Pirates decide to be more aggressive on the base pads as an offensive approach (multiple runners in motion).

        Fan Graphs put out some break even analysis on various steal scenarios (including the double steal) here:

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/breaking-down-stolen-base-break-even-points/

        And notice the minuscule success rate required for break-even with one out / two outs and attempting to steal home from 3B.

        Scenario – 7th inning – Walker doubles and then reaches 3B on a fielders choice / bunt by Marte. At this point do you sub in Florimon for Walker as a pinch runner?

        Alvarez is next up to bat (lefty) and so opposing manager would like a lefty pitcher as a match up, but it gives the runner at 3B a longer lead.

  9. In the last 2 years, Jeff Locke is 17-13 in 51 starts, 300 IP, a 53% GB rate, and under club control for 4 more years – it is of no consequence what Clayton Richard decides. We will save every possible pitching resource for a run at the pennant (including Pimental), but if the guys at AAA and Glasnow at AA start to push, the Pirates will have to clear space.

    It would be nice to have a power LH bat off the bench, but we just do not have one at this time. When we start the process of shedding MLB-Quality SP’s and RP’s, I sure hope we can find a young, LH hitting or switchhitting 3B with better than average power – Jake Lamb, Drew Ward, Ryan McMahon, etc.

    • I quit reading this comment when I saw 17-13, anyone who judges pitchers based on W/L record is an idiot with a baseball IQ of 0.

      • I disagree. Some pitchers always seem to find a way to lose. If the opposing team scores 2 they will allow 3 runs, etc. An old Pirate pitcher by the name of Jose Deleon is a good example. Always had a decent ERA, great stuff but always had a losing record. I know I’ll get killed on this last comment but Nolan Ryan is over rated. His winning percentage was never much better than the teams he pitched for

        • I am old enough to remember DeLeon. His control was always an issue. In the three plus years with the Pirates his SO / BB ratio was 1.76 (career was about 1.89).

          For comparison, Locke’s SO / BB ratio for his career with the Pirates is 1.75. Nolan Ryan’s career SO / BB ratio was 2.04 (5714 SO / 2795 BB).

          And so, I agree with Marty’s statement, judging a pitcher solely on Win / Loss record misses a lot. The most notable examples are Mickey Lolich with the Detroit Tigers, Mets, and Padres from 1963 to 1979 and Bert Blyleven with the Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians, and Angels from 1970 to 1992.

          Lolich’s career record was 217W – 191L
          Blyleven’s career record was 287W – 250L
          Ryan career record was 324W – 292L

          Lolich career – 2.58 SO / BB ratio, 3.44 ERA
          Blyleven career – 2.80 SO / BB ratio, 3.31 ERA
          Ryan career – 2.04 SO / BB ratio, 3.19 ERA

          Nolan isn’t notable for his stuff (though it was pretty good) or his command (which was slightly above average). He is notable for his longevity starting in 1966 and retiring in 1993 (27 Year career). Tommy John only pitched 26 years (1963 – 1989).

  10. Pimentel over Hughes wouldn’t surprise me at all. Stolmy sucks and Hughes is good but that isn’t what matters. What matters is one has options one does not. Also, for many reasons, I’m stunned tou say Florimon makes it over Lambo. Literally, read that and almost fell out of my chair.

    • Lambo literally is the next big thing and people like you are missing it. Lambo is a huge left handed power bat and crushes AAA its only a matter of time till he blossoms

      • Lambo is a AAAA loser that’ll never amount to anything in the Majors. He’s a worse hitter than the Bito is.

        • What Andrew Lambo is is a guy who only has 69 Major League at bats. He has proven himself at AAA and until he gets a look in the majors, we will never know what he is.

    • Stolmy sucks is about the most useless way to make a point. 25 year old kid with good stuff and a history of command issues? Sucks. Heck, i dont even have to argue if he is potentially “good” or not, but ill easily say he doesnt suck.

  11. This does bring up the question though of when does depth get in the way of success. When it’s a late inning situation if Florimon gets a bat, I might wonder if the odds were more in our favor with Lambo at the plate.
    I think Lambo has a role on this team, and I’m not convinced of the value that Florimon brings with him being the 5th shortstop as I see it behind Mercer, Kang, Rodriguez, and Harrison.
    I see Lambo spotting Marte sometimes putting a heavier LH lineup in play which is a reasonable roster spot – especially with the teams new Golden State Warrior approach of player rest.
    Lastly, I don’t care if Pimentel becomes a cy young – I’ve seen enough of his average stuff. He’s got velocity, that doesn’t make him effective. I’m a little disappointed in Holdzcom however I’d really like him to work on a change or slider or even a 4 seamer/2 seamer combo to mix it up a little so he’s got an opportunity to work on things.

  12. i agree with your assessment, Tim. I would prefer the Pirates have a power LH bat off the bench, but I believe Pirates value keeping assets when they can. Which leads me to say even though I think Hughes over Pimentel will be the choice, it wont surprise me in the least if they choose Stolmy.

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