PITTSBURGH – The most difficult thing about writing up the minor league season previews last week was trying to figure out what the Pirates would be doing with all of their infield options this season.
They opted to promote Kevin Kramer to Indianapolis, despite also sending down Max Moroff and Jose Osuna from Pittsburgh. Osuna would be playing third base, which combined with Kramer on the team, left little room for Moroff. Add in guys like Chris Bostick, Erich Weiss, and Eric Wood, and there was definitely a roster crunch.
“The position player group is the deepest we’ve had (in Indy),” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said to reporters on Sunday, including our Matt Gajtka. “Very deep and talented. Brian Esposito is going to have to put together a puzzle. Not just the number of guys, but the positions.”
As I wrote at the end of Spring Training, the Pirates will primarily use Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer in the middle infield spots. Newman will get the bulk of the work at shortstop, and Kramer will get the bulk of the work at second. But the two will switch sides of the bag. That’s in part due to adding versatility for Newman, but also because of the skill that Kramer has shown at short.
“With Kevin Kramer and Kevin Newman, Kevin Newman will be the primary shortstop, but based on what Kramer did in Arizona last year, we’ll have to continue to get him some work at shortstop,” Huntington said.
The Pirates had Newman at short and Kramer at second for the first three games in Indianapolis. That seems to be putting Jose Osuna and Max Moroff in a split between the DH spot and third base. Osuna played the first two games at third, with Moroff as the DH, and they switched for the third game. That has left Erich Weiss and Eric Wood splitting first base, with Wood getting two of the three starts.
“Weiss, Wood and Moroff in 2008, ’09 and maybe even ’10 would’ve been our regular shortstop, second baseman and third baseman,” Huntington said. “Right now, they’re fighting for extra playing time.”
The outfield isn’t as crowded as the infield, even with Chris Bostick moving to the outfield to reduce the infield options. Austin Meadows will play center field and left field, and so far has played two games in center. Bostick will play all over, so far playing one game each in left and center. Jordan Luplow will play the corner outfield spots, and has played two in left and one in right so far. Todd Cunningham will also get in the mix, although the first three are the guys who will be depth options for Pittsburgh.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Huntington said of the depth. “We’ve got a large group of guys who we believe can not only help a major-league team, but a large number of guys who can be main-type players on a major-league team. But we’ve got to give them all opportunities to grow and develop. They may transition into the big leagues by playing multiple positions, which Harrison, Kang and Mercer did, and earn bigger roles as those guys have done.”
I could see Newman, Kramer, and Meadows having good shots at being starters in the majors. Moroff and Luplow also have a chance to be solid bench players or maybe average starters at best at their positions. Osuna could be a solid bench player with the bat, but is blocked in Pittsburgh at every position he plays.
The Pirates have some depth options in Indianapolis, and seem to have found a way to play all of them, with Newman and Kramer getting priority time in the middle infield, Osuna getting priority time at third base, and Meadows and Luplow getting priority time in the outfield.