BRADENTON, Fla. – The biggest question all throughout Spring Training was whether one of the Indianapolis starting pitching prospects would have to move to Altoona at the start of the year, along with a question of which one(s) would be held back. You knew that the Pirates would be sending Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon to Triple-A. But the spots for Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, and Steven Brault weren’t guaranteed at the start of the season.
The Pirates had talked all spring about how their need for early season depth in the rotation, with the possibility that Kyle Lobstein could start the year in the Indianapolis rotation. With Lobstein looking like he’ll make the Opening Day bullpen in Pittsburgh, that created the potential for all five prospects to start off in Indianapolis.
I talked with Pirates’ Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway yesterday about the minor league rosters, and he confirmed that none of the starting prospects will be held back in Altoona.
“They’re all planning on being in Triple-A,” Broadway said.
There is one catch here. Chad Kuhl missed some time after coming down from minor league camp, due to unspecified soreness. He’s back pitching now, but just completed his three inning/50 pitch start this week. He will start the season in extended Spring Training, working on building up for the season. He still has at least three more starts, with a four inning outing, and two five inning outings. So it will be a few weeks before he joins the team. Wilfredo Boscan will be pitching in the rotation in his place.
As for Lobstein, there’s a good chance he eventually goes down when Jared Hughes returns, or earlier if the Pirates acquire someone else for the bullpen before Opening Day. Broadway said it’s up in the air on what happens when Lobstein eventually comes down.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Broadway said. “There’s a lot of moving parts.”
I get the feeling that the Pirates want to start all five of their prospects in Indianapolis. Broadway also said that they plan on having all of their infield prospects starting in Triple-A, regardless of what cuts are made in big league camp this weekend.
Here is the breakdown of how playing time will be distributed throughout the full-season levels. We will have season previews on Monday and Tuesday next week, with profiles on the top prospects at each level. The groups below don’t include full bench and bullpen assignments, since a lot of those are still up in the air.
C – Jacob Stallings and Ed Easley will take this role until Elias Diaz returns, at which point Diaz would be the starter, with Stallings as the primary backup.
1B – Josh Bell will be the primary first baseman. Dan Gamache will get some starts here, and Jake Goebbert will get the occasional start.
2B – Alen Hanson will primarily play here, but will also get time at third base, and will move to the outfield this year, getting one start per week. The move to the outfield was discussed last year, but the Pirates didn’t end up doing that. They’ll make that move this year to get everyone plenty of playing time. He’ll also be an option at shortstop, but it sounds like he’ll get most of his time at second, and some at third and outfield.
SS – Gift Ngoepe will primarily play shortstop, and won’t move around as much as others, but will be an option at second and third if he does.
3B – Max Moroff will get most of his playing time here, while also filling in at second base when Hanson is at another position. He could also move to the outfield at some point this year to make it easier to get everyone playing time.
LF – Adam Frazier will get most of his time in the outfield, playing left and center field. He’ll also get some time at shortstop, replacing Gift, and some starts at second base. It sounds like there’s more opportunity for him at short, with Hanson/Moroff splitting second.
CF – Antoan Richardson and Danny Ortiz will be splitting the center field role, with Frazier moving over to that spot at times.
RF – Willy Garcia will play primarily right field, and occasional work in left.
DH -The DH will be used by a lot of players, but I’m profiling two guys here. Jake Goebbert will rotate in the corner outfield spots, play occasional first base, and some DH work. Dan Gamache will play first, third, and DH. It sounds like both will be working off the bench, with Goebbert getting more time.
SP – Tyler Glasnow
SP – Jameson Taillon
SP – Steven Brault
SP – Trevor Williams
SP – Wilfredo Boscan (Chad Kuhl taking over when he’s built up)
C – Reese McGuire will be getting most of the time here, with Jin-De Jhang backing him up and getting time at DH. The playing time will be similar to how they split things in Bradenton last year.
1B – Last year the Pirates had Edwin Espinal getting most of his time at first, with Jose Osuna in the outfield. This year, Osuna will get more of the time at first base. Espinal will get some time at first base, along with third base and the DH role.
2B – Erich Weiss will be the second baseman.
SS – Chris Diaz and Anderson Feliz will split the shortstop role.
3B – Eric Wood will be the third baseman, with Edwin Espinal getting some starts there, and Anderson Feliz getting the occasional work. Wyatt Mathisen could eventually move to Altoona, although right now it’s too soon to say whether he’ll go there, as he’s currently recovering from a sore shoulder and doesn’t throw until next week.
LF – Barrett Barnes will be the left fielder.
CF – Austin Meadows will be here when he returns. Until then, it will be Harold Ramirez.
RF – With Meadows out, this spot could be opened up for extra playing time for Osuna when he’s not at first, or one final shot for Stetson Allie.
DH – The DH spot will rotate, with Jhang, Espinal, and Allie as candidates for the most playing time.
SP – Jason Creasy
SP – Cody Dickson
SP – Tyler Eppler
SP – Clay Holmes
SP – David Whitehead
Frank Duncan has been a starter in the past, but will move to the bullpen in a long relief role. He’s staying back at the start of the year, after missing time in camp with an oblique injury.
C – Taylor Gushue will be the primary catcher.
1B – Jerrick Suiter will get most of the time at first. Chase Simpson could get some time off the bench, and Connor Joe could move here when he’s not playing third.
2B – Kevin Kramer will stick to mostly second base.
SS – Kevin Newman will be the starting shortstop.
3B – Connor Joe is moving to third base this year, and it doesn’t sound like it will be a split in playing time. Broadway said Joe will get most of his time at third, with Luplow still getting reps at the position to keep that an option for him.
LF – Jordan Luplow will play left field most of the time, with some work at third.
CF – Elvis Escobar will play center field.
RF – Michael Suchy will play right field.
DH – Logan Hill will get work at both corner outfield spots, along with DH. Pablo Reyes will move up to Bradenton, getting time at second, shortstop, third base, and DH.
Cole Tucker’s assignment is still to be determined, and depends on how he progresses from his shoulder surgery last year. Broadway did say that they “definitely” want to get Tucker to Bradenton by the end of the year.
SP – Austin Coley
SP – Yeudy Garcia
SP – Colten Brewer
SP – Brandon Waddell
SP – Alex McRae
Stephen Tarpley will join this group when he’s healthy from his oblique injury. I’m not sure who he’d replace at this point, although my early guess would be Colten Brewer, with Brewer moving to a long relief/piggyback role.
Luis Heredia will return to Bradenton as a reliever, getting 1-2 inning outings. Heredia has shown good velocity so far in the bullpen, consistently sitting 93-95 MPH. He still has some control problems, but seems to be improved over his work as a starter.
“I think getting more touches, more consistent touches of the ball on the slope in shorter stints kind of helps him,” Broadway said. “Just how he’s built and how he is.”
C – Christian Kelley will get most of the time here. Erik Lunde and John Bormann will be the backup options, and it’s currently undecided who will get more time.
1B – Carlos Munoz will be the first baseman. At this point forward, the roster is pretty set, so there will only be names.
2B – Mitchell Tolman
SS – Alfredo Reyes
3B – Ke’Bryan Hayes
LF – Casey Hughston
CF – Tito Polo
RF – Ryan Nagle
DH – Danny Arribas will be the backup at first base, third base, and will get some time behind the plate, while also serving as the DH. Ty Moore will be in the outfield mix, while also DHing.
SP – Dario Agrazal
SP – JT Brubaker
SP – Bret Helton
SP – Mitch Keller
SP – Logan Sendelbach
James Marvel could eventually go to West Virginia, although right now he’s behind everyone, only pitching sim games and live BP as the Pirates focus on getting him out of rehab mode. Marvel hasn’t pitched in well over a year, after Tommy John surgery. He will start getting stretched out at the start of extended Spring Training, and the Pirates will evaluate where he goes from there.
In the past, West Virginia has had too many starting options and not enough rotation spots, leading to “piggybacking”, where they would have one starter go five innings, and another starter follow with four. Broadway said there will be no piggyback guys out of the bullpen this year. I could see that changing if Marvel goes to West Virginia. Seth McGarry might get close to that role, with some three inning appearances, but he’s mostly going to be a one and two inning reliever.