We’re a little over a week away from rosters expanding, and the Pittsburgh Pirates will have several decisions to make when September 1st rolls around. They have several players on the disabled list who are expected to return, along with a lot of guys in the minors who could be brought up. What will make things interesting is the fact that they have several guys who aren’t on the 40-man roster right now who will almost certainly be brought up, meaning they will need to clear some spots on the 40-man. The only problem is that there aren’t many spots that can be cleared.

Here is a rundown of the decisions that need to be made, along with who I expect to join the roster next week.

15-Day DL

A.J. Burnett – No word yet on when he’ll return, but expect him to try and return at some point in September when rosters expand.

Deolis Guerra – Same as Burnett, there’s no word on when he’ll return. But he should return and pitch in the bullpen when he’s healthy.

Rob Scahill – He’s already rehabbing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes his return from the DL right when rosters expand.

Travis Ishikawa – He was placed on the disabled list today, and won’t be eligible for a return until the second week of September.

60-Day DL

Corey Hart – He’s rehabbing in Indianapolis, but I’d actually be surprised if Hart returns to the active roster. They’d have to clear a spot for him on the 40-man, and there will already be a high demand for those spots, as noted below.

Other 40-Man Roster

Jaff Decker – There will be a lot of outfielders, and a few left-handed hitters, which means Decker could be a candidate to be left in Triple-A.

Tony Sanchez – The situation with Sanchez will be interesting. He’s out of options next year, and he’ll have trouble making the active roster. Right now he’s the fourth best catcher on the 40-man, behind Elias Diaz. The big question is whether they’d want to start the clock on Diaz.

Bobby LaFromboise – The Pirates could call on him as a third lefty, although they’ll have that when A.J. Burnett returns, moving J.A. Happ to the bullpen at that point (or maybe Jeff Locke).

John Holdzkom – He might try to come back after a season of injuries, but I wouldn’t count on anything from him.

Casey Sadler – He hasn’t pitched since June 21st, and I wouldn’t expect him back this year. The Pirates could create a 40-man spot by calling him up and placing him on the 60-day DL.

Alen Hanson – He might be a candidate to get called up for infield help, although his role would be limited, as he’d be the number three option at each position he plays, and would have most of his value as a pinch hitter and base runner.

Jameson Taillon – Another guy who I wouldn’t expect up in September, although I wouldn’t put him on the 60-day DL, since the service time in this case would be a waste.

Elias Diaz – I wrote last week that the Pirates should bring him up, as this is a case where you don’t have to worry about service time or Super Two. Plus, he’s a better catching option than Sanchez.

Willy Garcia – He’s got a lot of power and a great arm, but it would be hard to see him finding any time in the majors, which makes a call-up pointless.

Not On 40-Man

Radhames Liz – He’s been fantastic in Triple-A, and I definitely see him coming up when rosters expand.

Vance Worley – Likewise, Worley is a guarantee to come up when rosters expand, giving the Pirates an extra starter and a long reliever.

Travis Snider – The Pirates didn’t sign him just to help their Triple-A squad. He will join the team in September, which creates less of a need for Corey Hart.

Pedro Florimon – If he’s retained, it will be interesting to see if he gets called back up, especially with a shortage of roster spots and Jordy Mercer around for defense at shortstop.

I left out other guys because they seemed interchangeable and there weren’t many 40-man spots. I also didn’t include Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell in this writeup because I don’t see the Pirates bringing them up.

As for those roster spots, the Pirates would need four spots to add the guys in this final group. That doesn’t include Corey Hart. They have one open roster spot, so they’d need to add three more.

You could add one spot by bringing up Sadler and placing him on the 60-day DL.  If Holdzkom can’t return, another spot could be created by taking the same approach with him.

In terms of guys who could be designated for assignment, I think Decker and Sanchez could be candidates. Decker would be a candidate because the Pirates would have a lot of outfielders, while Sanchez would depend on how the Pirates feel about going with Diaz as their third catcher.

There’s also the possibility that they don’t bring back Florimon, or DFA Ishikawa or Guerra again. The latter moves seem unlikely, since they avoided that move the first time around. But passing over Florimon might make sense, due to Mercer being on the roster. And then if Florimon doesn’t have a role, I’d have a hard time seeing a role for Hart to return, making it seem unlikely that he plays in Pittsburgh again.

The Pirates will have a few tough decisions to make, but the flip side to that is they will have a lot of talent and depth on the roster when the active roster expands.

**I’ll be heading down to Miami for the next couple of days to have live coverage of the upcoming Pirates series. I’m also looking at the possibility of having coverage in early September from St. Louis, and hope to officially add that to the calendar soon.

**Pirates Overcome Defensive Lapses in Win Over Giants. Pete Ellis with the live report from PNC Park tonight, detailing how the bullpen and the offense saved the Pirates from some defensive issues.

**Prospect Watch: Chad Kuhl Dominates Again With More Mid-90s Velocity. A great live report on Kuhl, who is a sleeper that is probably going to move up our prospect list at the end of the year.

**Pirates Recall Jordy Mercer, Travis Ishikawa to the DL. Expected move to bring Mercer back, but the Pirates manage to keep Ishikawa around.

**DSL Season Recap: Youth and Injuries Lead to Tough Season in the Dominican. John Dreker with a very detailed report on the DSL season, including reports on every player down there. Some of these were made up of information that I got while I was down there this summer, but most came from John’s excellent work covering the international scene.

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  1. LaFramboise seems like a redundant piece with how Bastardo has pitched the last few months. He’s also clogging up a 40-man spot and I expect him to be DFA’d this offseason if not sooner. I never though he was anything special.

    What could be interesting is if Snider and Decker are both called up. It’d be a SSS to say the least, but the FO might look at that to determine who should be the 4th OF for next season and, possibly, this postseason. They’d have to use an injury-type thing to make them eligible, though.

    • I’m a bit fuzzy on the details of this, but since the Snider deal was a minor league contract, will he then be arbitration eligible again next year with his current 2 million plus salary as a starting point? Not saying it should, but I could see that being a deterrent if they would be paying a 4th OF coming off a miserable year 3+ million…

    • The question is who will be the 8 bench bats that they roster for WC Game (as they have done last 2 years) – if we go with a line-up of say Polanco, Marte, Cutch, Kang, Walker, Pedro, JHay and Cervelli – that leaves 7 guys who are locks in SRod, ARam, Stewart, Mercer, Morse, Snider and 3rdCatcher; so that leaves 1 open spot between potentially Florimon, Ishikawa, Decker, Hanson, Broxton (?) and ????. Personally even though Decker overlaps some with Snider, I love his approach at the plate, and can serve as pinch runner and spare OF if needed for some reason. I take Decker as 8th bench bat.

  2. I strongly believe that Sanchez, not Diaz will come up, Hanson does not and if they do like they did like year, they will not bring up that many players, Liz, Worley, Snider, A.j. and Scahill might be it with LaFromboise as dark horse

    • I would probably call Sanchez up for the potential he has with the bat. He’s shown already he can hit Major League pitching, and Diaz has not, even though he’s the better defender.

      • Tony Sanchez has struck out in almost a third of his big league attempts without showing much power or patience. You’re far from alone, but I don’t understand where this idea that he’s a proven Major League hitter comes from.

  3. 7-Burnett, Liz, Worley, LaFromboise, Snider, Ishikawa, Sanchez or Diaz.

    Sandler to 60-Day DL and either Guerra, Scahill, or Decker DFA’d.

  4. Please refer to an article written by the Williams guy entitled “Chad Kuhl dominates again with more mid-90’s . . . . ” 23 – 9, 3.00 ERA in his last 52 starts (28 at Hi A and 24 at AA). I think 95-97 mph with command would play well at any level of baseball, but I could be mistaken.

    • He is going to be an excellent candidate next season but he he needs another pitch right now. I haven’t even read that yet, but I can tell you that from watching him pitch a lot in Altoona. I really like him myself.

      • In your time watching Altoona, can you think of a kid who has added/developed an average or better breaking ball at that level or above?

        Lot of old school baseball guys believe a breaking ball is mostly inherent in a kid’s arm/wrist and that you can only do so much to teach one if he doesn’t have it. I’m not sure I can think of a Pirate prospect who’s really developed one in the higher levels.

        • Reading my 2015 P2, he has a 4 seam (96), a 2 seam (90-93), a Slider and a change-up, which was the pitch he put a lot of time into in 2014 “and made a lot of improvement”. The Slider is described as good. He had a 51% GB rate in 2013 and then 58% in 2014.

          With a 96/97 mph FB, and a 2 seamer that gets 50%+ GB’s with Command on both pitches, even a good Slider and Change-up is fantastic. He’s a strong possibility to help down the stretch, and I like the message it would send to a lot of young guys working very hard to get to the Show – work hard and people will notice!

          • No offense to Tim and crew, but if he actually had a good slider paired with mid-90s heat and plus command he’d be striking out a hell of a lot more than just 16% of the hitters he faced.

          • I’ve only seen it on video and like that it’s the sharper 12-6 variety and not the big sweeping kind, but it didn’t stand out as a particularly great pitch. And not to appeal to authority, but doesn’t it seem at all suspicious that *no* other outlets have noticed a kid with two good secondaries and 95 mph heat with plus command?

          • To add on to everything NMR already said, i think any kid who isnt already convinced that PGH notices and rewards young guys who do well need to sit and talk with Cole, Marte, and Polanco.

          • Help where ? Starter ? Are you kidding me ? Bullpen ? Replace who ? Are you sure you aren’t on the Red’s or Phillies’ page accidentally ?

        • I don’t think I have but I think its because the have concentrated on 2 & 4 seam fastball command so heavily. The best curveball I have seen from any prospect has been Glasnow’s, with Taillon’s second actually. If you want to be an MLB starter, you had better command the fastball, and this organization subscribes to that emphatically. If you can’t, no matter what else you have, you will be either a middle reliever or a Minor League starter.

    • Smattering of pitchers with big league experience, Tuivalala specifically. Piscotty was really their last position player prospect of note above A-ball.

  5. Too much talent for the 40-man roster. Oh, how the worm has turned.

    Thank God for Bob Nutting, NH and his staff!

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