Adding Defensive Vesatility is Key for Pablo Reyes this Winter

Saturday was a slow day in winter ball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Alfredo Reyes was used as a defensive replacement and Pablo Reyes had one at-bat before leaving for a defensive replacement in the first inning. That was it for action around all of winter ball. I reached out to Pablo Reyes to see why he left the game early last night and was able to get some more information on his winter plans.

Reyes left due to illness last night and he expects to miss only a few days at most. That’s good news because he said that the Pirates are only allowing him to play winter ball until the end of this month. That’s bad news for winter leagues coverage here because we already knew that Tyler Eppler will be done later this month and Eduardo Vera has just two more scheduled starts in Mexico before his winter is over.

As for Reyes, the plan during his abbreviated winter is to get him playing time at all different positions and we have seen that so far. He played five different spots in his first week (SS, 3B, 2B, LF, CF) and earlier this week he made starts at four different spots over a four-game stretch. The Pirates used him in right field after Gregory Polanco got hurt, so it’s a bit surprising that he hasn’t played there yet, seeing as Polanco won’t be available to begin the season.

The main thing that Reyes informed me of is that the Pirates asked for him to get more time at shortstop this winter. They wanted him moving around, but shortstop was a key spot for him to play this winter. The Pirates are going to need to replace Jordy Mercer next year and while it appears right now that Kevin Newman is the front runner among internal options, Reyes may have a chance to pick up playing time there.

The Pirates didn’t use him at shortstop during his September call-up, but he did make nine starts there in Indianapolis this year and he has played a total of 147 games there over his minor league career. Reyes is a solid defender at second base, and he has the arm strength to play shortstop. During the times I’ve seen him play shortstop, he has shown all of the skills to play the spot, but he has a tendency to rush plays and isn’t smooth at the position.

Those are things that can be ironed out with more playing time at a spot, but it’s unlikely that there will be a chance for him to get regular playing time, whether he’s in the majors or at Indianapolis start 2019.

Reyes is hitting .242/.319/.290 through 17 games this winter. While you’d like to see more against a league that is equal to Triple-A competition, the defensive side of his game is of more interest at this point. If the Pirates feel confident that he can play shortstop in the majors, then this versatility he is adding this winter may give him a better shot of making the Opening Day roster in 2019.