The first official workouts of Spring Training will take place tomorrow. The Pirates have a roster that is pretty much set, with younger players in starting roles, and some veterans on the bench. They do have a few position battles, with the key areas being the fifth starter spot, almost the entire bullpen, and the final outfield and bench spot.
Below is our Spring Training tracker, showing the position battles and the chances for each player in camp to make the team. Hat-tip to subscriber Dan Green for the inspiration for the new design. You can access the tracker at this link all throughout Spring Training.
Below the tracker I will break down each position battle.
The Pirates are returning four of their five starters from last year, and I’ve got all of them projected to make the rotation. The one guy who might be questionable is Trevor Williams, simply because the Pirates started him in the bullpen last year. However, he did enough in the rotation that he earned his spot, as shown by the Pirates keeping him around over Tyler Glasnow when that decision had to be made.
The three pitchers that have the best chance for the final rotation spot are Joe Musgrove, Tyler Glasnow, and Steven Brault. Musgrove was acquired in the Gerrit Cole trade, and the battle for the final spot will likely come down to him and Glasnow. There’s not much for Glasnow to prove in Triple-A at this point. He just needs to work on adjusting to the majors. I think Brault’s chances of making the team will be split as a starter or a reliever, with the bullpen being more likely.
The bullpen is a mess right now. I have five open spots, and that’s only due to the amount of options available, creating actual competition. I have nine relievers with a shot to make those five spots, not including Brault, and possibly Glasnow or Musgrove. Here is the breakdown of their chances:
High Salary/Out of Options
Daniel Hudson is being paid $5.5 M this year, after struggling last year. Maybe it’s wishful thinking to think his performance will dictate whether he makes the Opening Day roster.
A.J. Schugel is out of options, but the Pirates have cut him before, and he’s cleared waivers. They’ve got a good chance to keep him around as depth in Triple-A if he doesn’t make the team.
Jordan Milbrath is a Rule 5 pick who needs to make the team, or be offered back to the Cleveland Indians. There’s a chance the Pirates could keep him around by working out a trade with Cleveland.
Hard Throwing Right-Handers
The Pirates have added a few hard-throwing right-handers, pairing them with some internal options. Michael Feliz was added in the Gerrit Cole trade, while Kyle Crick was added in the Andrew McCutchen trade. I’d give Feliz more of an inside track than anyone else, due to his previous MLB experience. They also have Edgar Santana and Dovydas Neverauskas as internal options.
You could add Glasnow and/or Musgrove to the list of potentials here. Milbrath from the list above also qualifies. I think the Pirates would be better off going with guys from this category over guys like Hudson and Schugel.
The Pirates have Jack Leathersich and Josh Smoker as lefties competing for the bullpen, and you’d have to think that one of them will make the team. This is an area where I could see Brault coming into play as well if the Pirates decide to use him as a reliever. I think they will have at least one left-hander in the bullpen outside of Felipe Rivero, so one of these three should make the team.
There is one projected outfield spot open, and one projected bench spot open, and they’ll probably go hand-in-hand. The Pirates reportedly want a platoon in left field, and added Daniel Nava as a minor league free agent to compete for that role. Because of this, Nava is the only non-roster invitee that I give a chance of making the Opening Day roster.
Adam Frazier and Jordan Luplow would be the guys competing for the other half of that role. I have Frazier making the team on the bench, so that creates a few scenarios. Nava could make the team and pair with Frazier, leaving the final bench spot to Luplow, Max Moroff, or Jose Osuna.
Or, Nava could make the team and pair with Luplow, which would make more sense, as Nava has done better against right-handers, and Luplow has done well in the minors against lefties. That would put Moroff and Osuna in the minors.
Finally, there’s the scenario where Nava doesn’t make the team, which would probably lead to Luplow and Frazier splitting the outfield duties, and Moroff and Osuna battling for the final bench spot. In that battle, I think Moroff would win.