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.

Indianapolis

Alen Hanson will get some time in the outfield this year.
Alen Hanson will get some time in the outfield this year.

Lineup

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.

Rotation

SP – Tyler Glasnow

SP – Jameson Taillon

SP – Steven Brault

SP – Trevor Williams

SP – Wilfredo Boscan (Chad Kuhl taking over when he’s built up)

Altoona

Jose Osuna will get most of the time at first base in Altoona.
Jose Osuna will get most of the time at first base in Altoona.

Lineup

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.

Rotation

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.

Bradenton

Connor Joe will be the primary third baseman in Bradenton.
Connor Joe will be the primary third baseman in Bradenton.

Lineup

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.

Rotation

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.”

West Virginia

Ke'Bryan Hayes and Mitch Keller will move to West Virginia at young ages.
Ke’Bryan Hayes and Mitch Keller will move to West Virginia at young ages.

Lineup

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.

Rotation

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.

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91 COMMENTS

  1. Some of these lineups are just so exciting that we may have to take some trips just to catch the action. Seriously – who wouldn’t want to see the AAA pitchers, on basically any day of the week? And Bradenton might just be rolling out the infield of the future. And there’s more good stuff to come, as Tarpley and Meadows get healthy! And I’m not even mentioning the wealth of pitching that’s recovering from TJ – we laughed a lot at the BMTIB, but it’s really hard not to give Huntington’s team a lot of credit for amassing a lot of talent.

  2. Tim, I’m moving to Morgantown in August. Is that team primarily made up of guys drafted this year?

  3. What a difference a few years makes…

    2013 Indy Indians…

    Batters with 300+ PAs:
    Brent Carroll
    Ivan De Jesus
    Jared Goedert
    Matt Hague
    Felix Pie
    Alex Presley
    Jerry Sands

    Pitchers with 75+ IP:
    Brooks Brown
    Brandon Cumpton
    Graham Godfrey
    Kris Johnson
    Andy Oliver
    Stolmy Pimentel

  4. Has anyone went to a Harrisburg Senators game? I moved to Camp Hill a few weeks ago and am about 2 miles from the stadium and know Altoona plays them. Curious if anyone from P2 makes a trip for the games?

  5. Just for fun, here’s a Poll Question: If you took the Indy team listed here, and had them take the place of the Pirates MLB squad, how many wins in the majors would you guess they’d have ?

    • I’ll go 73.

      Which isnt really a negative on their talent, but its a good jump from AAA to ML, and the offense wouldnt be tremendous against ML arms. Too many “eh” bats to score enough runs against ML arms.

      • Whoa. Way, way over what I was expecting.

        Isn’t it generally said that a team of replacement-level players should win about 45 games? 73 wins, without massive sequencing luck, would mean that those Indy players would be worth about 30 WAR. That’s *huge*.

        I’d be surprised if even the best MiLB team didn’t lose 100 games.

        I mean, the 2010 Pirates had Cutch, Walker, Good-Tabata, and Alvarez and still lost 105.

        • No yeah you are right, I was misplacing baseline for an entire roster of replacement level.

          But id still say over 60. Enough guys likely to be above replacement level to be better than a 55 win team. Though the bullpen becomes a really long exercise that ruins this game, since you wouldnt roll with that bullpen and we dont really know what it is to begin with. Peg off about 10 wins from the above.

          • Bullpen is exactly where I think this would blow up. I doubt WAR would come close to capturing how many games they’d lose.

            That outfield would also almost certainly be at least a few games below replacement level, and I’m not convinced the infield would break even.

            Might be ironic, but I generally think folks (not you, specifically) who spend a lot of time following prospects underestimate just how damn good you have to be to make a Major League roster.

            • I think any AAA team would get win projections blown up via the pen. It’d be awful, and for this team the OF would also absolutely have at least one spot of suck.

              They’d be bad fo sho mo fo.

          • Reminds me of the ’03 Tigers who decided to go on full on youth.

            Top three pitchers were 2 former first rounders and a 3rd rounder…ages were 20, 23, and 25.

            They promoted former #3 overall pick Eric Munson (who was a monster in the minors) to the 3B job.

            I’d say their talent depth of the young guys was lighter than Indy’s, but they had some alright veterans.

            They went 43-119.

    • Teams loaded with prospects usually don’t put up strong records. Part of the reason is that if they struggle, they still play, but if they do well, they get promoted. The other part(more relevant to Indy) is some teams will be loaded with veterans and a team full of 28-30 year old AAAA players is going to outplay a team full of 22-24 year old prospects. Another reason is that the lineup is geared to get the prospects the most at-bats, not to put the best hitters at the top. Plus pitchers will be working on things, throwing pitches in situations you normally don’t use that pitch, almost setting them up for failure with the goal to make them better.

      I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Indy had a losing record, just based on past experience. It seems odd to say, but they just have too many prospects this year to be good. Of course, I’ll be watching them almost every night, probably switching to Altoona for Eppler when Taillon or Glasnow isn’t on the mound

  6. With the Cards losses at ss it’s hard to put Pedro Florimon out there, or Figeroa. Release no ss!!

  7. Not sure if it’s because I know all the names by now and they resonate or if those are some pretty prospect loaded teams. I’d say the future looks very bright in PNC park. Can’t wait.

  8. Boy, I’m glad I clicked on this article. By the title I had no idea I was getting this organizational breakdown. Good stuff.

  9. Does anyone like me worry about us going through
    another catchers nightmare like we had a few years ago?

    Is that our weakest position considering depth?
    (short term)

    • Relative to other teams… not at all. With Diaz at AAA and McGuire at AA, the Pirates have 2 top catching prospects and both are within earshot of the majors.

    • We’ve got one actual solid starting option, followed by a useful backup. If both go down, you’d have Diaz (once he gets the arm healthy). If you went by all 3 of those, you could do worse for 4th on the depth chart than Stallings.

      If you lose 4 catchers it doesnt matter because no team has near a good option sitting in AA but ML ready.

    • Weakest is pretty obviously West Virginia, to my eye. Two big upside guys in Hayes/Keller, but not much else besides a potential Tito Polo breakout.

      • Yeah. Bradenton may actually be the strongest. WV pretty much dominated last year and Br. will have mostly the same guys, plus Newman, Kramer, Hill and Waddell. And hopefully a healthy Connor Joe.

        • Relative to their respective league, very much agree with you on Bradenton. Not a lot of huge tools, just a ton of solid baseball players.

        • Looking at that Bradenton lineup, wouldn’t surprise me at all to eventually get at least four solid big league contributors. That’s pretty damn good from one “class”.

      • Beyond Keller the WV pitching is pretty bad – potentially. But the Offense could be plus – Munoz is my Osuna II – Hayes – Polo and Hughston could all be plus hitters.

  10. Looks pretty complicated, especially considering that Figueroa or Rogers, or both, will be in AAA.

  11. Glad to see Osuna at first, I think that’s his best spot. Surprised about Hanson in the OF though…I’d rather he spend some time at SS again

        • Pirates are in full blown cross training mode w their prospects. It’s a good philosophy to have for both the organization and the team. One never knows what the clearest path to the majors is for these guys. Plus it makes them more valuable in potential trades, too.

      • They have two #1 picks coming up behind him. Better to have Hanson spend time at positions he might stick at.

  12. I am glad they are going with the “all prospect rotation” in AAA. They will probably need MLB starters and Lobstein and Boscan just don’t inspire much confidence outside of a spot start. I would rather get all five going to keep as many options as possible open to the team. I would also think they would consider piggybacking Taillon with Boscan and maybe Lobstein later to keep his innings down

    • Good observation, Rich. I agree. Get as many as the legitimate mlb capable starters going a.s.a.p. so that if/when the need arises in Pittsburgh, they will be ready to answer the call. I am not sure what we can expect from Taillon in 2016, until they get him built back up, but if we are to have any hope of winning the Central Division, the pitchers at AAA will in all likelihood have to contribute to some extent.

      • I think it’s more a matter of having JT build up his confidence vs top talent than building up his endurance at this point. He hasn’t pitched a meaningful game vs the type of hitters he’ll see in AAA in nearly 2 years.

        I predict JT will be the first of these 5 to pitch for Pirates this season with the caveat he is as successful for Indy as his ability dictates he should be.

  13. That Indianapolis rotation is ridiculous. Glasnow, Taillon, Brault, Williams, and Kuhl. All 5 are legit prospects with Glasnow and Taillon being potential 1-2’s in the majors.

    • Yes, a day at the park in Indy will be worth the price of admission.
      Watch a nearly complete MLB ready team at minor league prices!

      Come back the next day and you can see them with another
      quality pitcher.
      =
      Sounds like an Indy Season ticket holder’s dream at least until July.

  14. “Jared Hughes returns, or earlier if the Pirates acquire someone else for the bullpen before Opening Day”
    I have seen this mentioned two other places about an acquisition for the pen. Where there is smoke…….

  15. Great. Neither Kuhl nor Tarpley will start the season on time. 2 of the guys I was most excited about in the system.

    • Barring setback, Kuhl is missing a minimal amount of time. He will go four innings on April 5th and the minor league season starts the 7th. He would then go the 10th and 15th, putting him on track for April 20th, meaning he’s missing two starts(though technically he’s still making them, just not at Indy)

      • John- is there any way to save or flag an article for later reading? I feel like this one would be good to refer back to later in the season, to keep tabs on who started where. If not, that might be a good feature to add to the site. Occasionally, there are articles I would like to reference again, but they get buried in the site or I’m just not clever enough to find them again.

        • I believe there is some way of doing that on the apps, but Tim would know better. I personally just save them to my favorites on Google Chrome, or with draft articles I used this year, I just email them to myself and every time I find a new one, I just respond to the email. So all my draft articles are in one spot for reference and I label what they are.

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