First Pitch: The Pirates’ Position Player Depth As Told Through Flow Charts

Last year I did a fun pre-season article breaking down the depth at each position for the 2015 Pirates, and what needed to happen to get to each player. It was well received, and I wanted to bring it back this year. I waited until Spring Training, figuring there might be some late additions to the roster. That paid off with the signing of Matt Joyce. After that, I didn’t get around to the article, which really paid off since they signed David Freese. And the extra time gave a bit more of a chance to analyze the roster, and see how the minor league free agents would factor in with the rising prospects.

The article last year used flow charts to show the different scenarios and different depth options the Pirates have. The charts this year show a lot of depth, although most of it is unproven in the form of prospects. There are a few disclaimers with each chart, with one of the big ones being that prospects aren’t guaranteed. So while the charts talk up the skills of these unknown players, realize that it might not work out. Another big disclaimer is that at any point, the team might be better off bringing in outside help for a position, rather than only sticking to internal options. This is mostly to show how the internal guys stack up.

These charts show areas of weaknesses for the MLB team, and also answer common questions about why certain players are on the team. For the most part, every position is strong once again, and if they run into problems, they’ve got a strong farm system to deal from. Now, here are the charts for 2016.

(TIP: Click on an image to get a bigger version)



First Base


Second Base




Third Base


Left Field/Right Field


Center Field


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**Pirate City Notes: Jameson Taillon Impressive in Today’s Start. Video and analysis from the start. Taillon looks ready from a mechanical standpoint, but still needs work against upper level guys.

**Max Moroff’s Decision to Turn Pro is Looking Really Smart. Sean McCool revisits the decision that Max Moroff made to turn pro, and how that is starting to look really good after his 2015 season.

**Austin Meadows to Have Surgery, Jung-ho Kang Increases Fielding Work. Kind of expected news for Meadows, and we’ll probably learn more next week. Another good step for Kang.

  • Polanco is batting a whopping .182 this spring. He will be lucky to bat .225 with 12 HR this year what a bust.

  • Think there are any second thoughts about resigning Rodriguez, when Figueroa could seemingly handle the utility role?

    • It seems like from everything I have read that Figueroa can handle the same amount of positions, but has a better bat. Plus, he is cheaper and under control. Would it not be great to see them dump SRod and his contract on another team?

  • Interesting read on how Statcast and other technologies are influencing Sabremetrics. While the article isn’t detailed, it does make note that maybe Cutch isn’t as poor a CF as Sabremetrics makes him out to be due to the nature of playing behind a staff of ground ball pitchers.

  • Tim- that was awesome. In some many ways and in so many days i kinda want to slap you, but that just redeemed every single irritating response you’ve ever given to anyone including your parents since you were 2 years old. Well done.

  • Brian Gahagen
    March 17, 2016 4:02 pm

    This is easily the greatest flow chart of all time.

  • Excellent. Aside from the hilarity ensuing, a serious question – am I reading it correctly that you think Diaz is ready to move into the starting role? You have him as the first option (before Stewart), and the only question is “Is Elias Diaz healthy”, not “Is Elias Diaz ready.”

  • Reviewing this article, I felt like I was back at work. Flow charts do one thing, they focus on things that might happen. Let us hope everyone stays healthy, hits and fields well enough so that we don’t have to flow down stream.

  • Wait, what happened to Pirates Facebook?

  • My favorite article each year!

  • So good. This totally made my day. Thanks, Tim.

  • If Jaso is very hott at 1st and come June Josh Bell is hitting good in Indianapolis and there are injuries to the outfield he is also an option.

    • Jaso has played outfield more recently than Bell, so it’s probably the other way around. Bell hasn’t taken a fly ball since August 2014. He’s filled out since then, and he really wasn’t that good to begin with, as his range and arm were average at best when he was playing everyday out there. They won’t mess around with the player they hope to have at first base for the next 6+ seasons. If Jaso is doing well in June, it could allow them more time to develop Bell at AAA without rushing him the day the Super 2 deadline passes.

  • “Ask Jordy” Loved it! Well done.

    • That was funny, but does that mean there’s no situation in which Kang plays SS? I didn’t realize that was completely off the table if so…

      • Boy, when the immediate options after Mercer include Figueroa, Florimon, and Sean F’ng Rodriguez I cannot fathom that the club wouldn’t at least test Kang’s lateral movement at the position.

        • Just curious: Has he expressed that he wouldn’t play there?

          • Couldn’t tell ya.

          • Don’t know what was said behind closed doors. I do know that every time he, or anyone else, has been asked whether he can play shortstop, they say he’s at third base. It’s not looking like an option for him.

            • The injury obviously complicates things, but the club also was strong in saying Josh Harrison was the 3B at this time last year, and the 2B this year, yet there’d be exactly zero people surprised to see him move around if needed.

              • But that was a different situation. He could play each position, but they wanted him settling down at one. In this case, he hasn’t worked at shortstop at all, and there’s no talk that he will going forward.

                • Wait what?

                  Kang was a far more valuable shortstop over far less time than the incumbent, Jordy Mercer.

                  I’m not following.

                  • I’m saying Harrison could play each position, but they chose to put him at one.

                    It doesn’t seem Kang can play shortstop going forward, based on their total refusal to even entertain questions like “Could he still be an option at shortstop in the future?” So it’s not as much of a choice as Harrison’s decision.

                    • Gotcha.

                      I read that more as supporting Mercer and their obvious general interest in assigning players a position, at least publicly, since they clearly don’t actually have any idea whether or not Kang can play shortstop.

                      Definitely agree that the injury puts his ability to play the position into question, but there would be no logical reason not to at least attempt to fit both Kang’s and Freeze’s bat into the lineup as opposed to any of the other SS options they have.

                    • The offense certainly would look better with Freese/Kang on the left side of the infield vs. Kang/Mercer. I haven’t looked at the numbers but my gut says the offensive gain would outweigh the defensive loss.

      • I hear you Mike. Good point.

  • About half-way through the shortstop chart I had a terrible flashback to a post-college interview in NYC where I struggled through an IQ test with a bad hangover.
    This is great stuff….here is a question for Tim and John. Will Jaso perform adequately as a first baseman? I am asking specifically about his defense…or is it a bit too early to tell?

    • It is a bit too early to tell. While I do focus in on his defense whenever watching the games, a majority of his work is being done off the main field and on the back fields with Kevin Young and Nick Leyva. I think he just needs reps and get used to situations, such as when to go for a ball hit to his right

      • We keep getting reports on the radio from reporters in Florida that he looks lost at times and is making errors of omission that don’t show up in the box score. Are you seeing that as well?

        • He definitely needs playing time so things become more natural, and that will just come with time. As they mentioned on the broadcast today, he will probably do more situation plays on the back fields or in minor league camp that may not come up during a spring game, such as a sacrifice bunt or making a throw to second base. He’s working hard at it, taking it serious, so I expect him to be serviceable. He just might not be at that point by Opening Day

          • Thanks for the detailed response. When I think of the number of times the first baseman has to catch the baseball or be in the right spot in time it is an ongoing concern. Which raises the question…how many times on average is the first baseman involved in a live play, including pickoff attempts? Anybody have a stat on that?

  • This is awesome.. Well done!

  • The CF flow chart is spectacular.

  • Now let’s see one for the pitchers…I dare you 🙂

  • Matthew Kruth
    March 17, 2016 1:27 am

    Great job as usual. Only one question. Wouldn’t Jaso be an option at catcher before either Stallings or Easley? Maybe even Stewart if they are willing to sacrifice the defensive upside?

    • No, Jaso has had two major concussions, so his catching days are over. I’m not even sure that he would be the emergency catcher day-to-day due to the risk he has.

  • Hilarious and accurate.