Pirates Q&A: Roster Scenarios, Prospect Questions, Free Agent Additions During Spring Training

I’ve been doing part one of the move to Raleigh over the last two days, with a drive back down to Bradenton tomorrow to resume Spring Training coverage. I’ll have a column going up tomorrow while I’m on the road. For now, here are the rest of the questions from this week’s Q&A.

Roster Questions

JamosLN50 – Let’s assume Hayes takes over the starting 3B role on Opening Day 2020. What would be your prediction for where Moran, Bell, Kang, Chisenhall, and Will Craig will be at that point?

Tim: A lot of variables involved here. I think Kang and Chisenhall would be gone, unless the Pirates sign either one to an extension. But if we’re assuming that Hayes is ready to take over at third, there wouldn’t be need to sign Kang to an extension. I don’t think Chisenhall factors into this group at all.

Moran and Bell would compete for first base, with whoever has the best season this year likely having the spot next year. The other one will probably be the DH, with the way MLB is trending. And if Will Craig is doing well enough in Triple-A in 2019, then he could factor into that mix as well.

You’ve got five players for the 1B/3B spots who are big unknowns. But if we’re going with your scenario (Hayes is the 2020 Opening Day starter), then let me logic question this one. The only way Hayes is up as the Opening Day starter is if he arrives this year and takes over. The only way that happens is if Kang and Moran are either both disappointing, or injured. So that’s the answer for those two.

As for first base, it would be Bell getting the shot, with the chance for a challenge from either Moran (I think Hayes will move him off the position regardless of how he does) or Craig. We’re assuming Moran had a bad enough 2019 to open the door for Hayes, so it would really be a battle between Bell (can he tap into his largely untapped offensive potential?) and Craig (can he combine the power he hit for in Altoona with his average and OBP from other levels?).

piraddict – I saw a recent list that penciled in the projected starters around the League. I saw a number of former Pirates (Cutch-LF, Meadows-RF, Walker -1B, Mercer-SS, Cole-SP(2), Morton-SP(4), Happ-SP(4), Glasnow-SP(4)) listed as starters for other teams. Would these players make the Pirates team as starters now versus their primary competition on the Bucs (so Cutch vs Dickerson, Meadows vs. Polanco, Walker vs. Bell, Mercer vs Gonzalez, Cole vs. Archer, Morton, Happ, Glasnow vs Williams, Musgrove, Lyles? In other words have the Bucs become a better or worse team in recent years through their combinations of trades, nonsignings etc.?

Tim: I read through that three times and now I have a headache.

I don’t think I’d take Cutch or Meadows over the current outfielders, at least for the 2019 season.

I wouldn’t take Walker over Bell, since I like Bell’s upside a lot more.

Mercer seems like a safer bet than Gonzalez, but I can see an argument where Gonzalez can be just as good or better. Mercer isn’t going to be difficult to replace.

I think it’s a tough decision between Cole and Archer, but that’s also coming from someone who views Archer as a top of the rotation guy and potentially (and previously) one of the best starters in the league.

I think I’d take the outside back of the rotation over the current options. That’s not to say the current guys are bad. I just view Morton/Happ as safer bets for more value than Williams/Musgrove (advanced metrics and a lack of innings being my respective issues), and Glasnow as having more upside than Lyles.

Overall, at worst I see this current team as slightly worse than the previous guys. I think you could make an argument that the team is better than the previous guys. But that’s probably because I’m trying to separate how some players are performing now versus when they were here (Cole, Morton).

lucabrasi – While I actually believe the Pirates will be in the outskirts of contention all season long (the result of an above average pitching staff coupled with a below average offense), let’s assume they are out of contention by July. How much would Cervelli and Dickerson receive on the trade market? To make this easy, let’s assume both have had no injuries all season and are performing at a level similar to last year.

Tim: I’m not even good at these questions when we’re at the trade deadline, since a lot of their value would be dependent on outside needs, the market at the time, and their trade value based on the performance they’re putting up.

I do struggle to find a scenario where both of these guys are performing like last year, but the Pirates are out of contention by July. The pitching would have to severely under-perform expectations to get this scenario.

Prospect Questions

JamosLN50 – When will the minor league previews be released? My fav read from last year

Tim: We always release them heading into the season when the rosters are set.

AlOliver16 – Two questions:
1. Is Oneil Cruz properly proportioned. Our last large-bodied prospect turned out be all legs.

2. Colin Moran is built like a pitcher. He really has a great arm at 3rd, both strong and accurate. Does he have a history on the mound?

Tim: I don’t think Moran is built like a pitcher. I don’t know about his history on the mound, but he won’t be a pitcher. That’s a last resort move, and he’s not close to that.

I guess Cruz is properly proportioned. I feel like once you get to 6′ 6″ and above, you’re going to be awkward in some way. That happens with every big guy, such as Polanco and Glasnow. I don’t think you can be graceful and super tall at the same time.

Darkstone42 – Every spring, videos of Kevin Newman’s batting practice appear to have him transferring his weight more, swinging more with his legs, and I assume with more authority, but by the first game highlight I see of him, he’s back to a stand-still rotation, all hands, defensive approach. Do you know if he has any intention this season, after his first taste of the Majors, of abandoning the two-strike-approach-all-the-time approach and trying to add some authority, or has he decided he’s just the player he is?

Tim: Players can do some things in batting practice, but have trouble carrying it over to the game in real scenarios. Newman’s swing has looked better this spring, and reminds me of how he looked coming into pro ball, hitting consistently to the gaps. The Pirates actually tried to get more power out of his swing, but it hasn’t worked yet. We’ll see if the swing this year will carry over to more power once the season hits.

Quick Hits

jimmyz – Is there any historical precedent of the Pirates adding any free agents during Spring Training? It seems as though once camp opens, the team is set so I guess I’m asking is there hope of any further additions?

Tim: You don’t have to go back far to find one. They added Corey Dickerson a few weeks into camp (before games started), and added Matt Joyce and David Freese a few years ago in March, after games started.

Darkstone42 – Nutting is not the only owner of the Pirates, but is the majority owner, correct? He’s the one who has the most say in the direction of the franchise, and the one who gives interviews and who we know about. But what do you know about the dynamic of the rest of the ownership group? How beholden is Nutting to their interests? I think I recall you saying they could keep him from selling, so they’ve got some serious say, but how much say do they get in things like payroll?

Tim: I don’t know much about the other owners. I didn’t say that they could keep Nutting from selling. I’ve always pointed out that they could keep him from draining profits from the team. Anything Nutting would withdraw, the other owners would have to withdraw the same relative amount, otherwise their ownership share would increase. Nutting wouldn’t want that.

On the flip side, they can prevent Nutting from spending his own cash on the team. If he invests more money into the team, and they don’t invest a relative amount, then his ownership share increases. He would want that. He gave the team a loan about ten years ago, and instead of trying to get it paid back, he wanted to convert it to equity, which would have increased his share of the team. The other owners declined and paid the loan back.

beaverjp – Recently I’ve seen a few teams use the 60 day dl to make room for new acquisitions. Can the pirates create two spots the same way by moving Santana and/or Kuhl?

Tim: I believe they can now, although it’s only needed if they want to add someone to the 40-man roster.

tmcgowan – Lets talk about ‘best shape of his life’ – I haven’t read much about that yet for anyone. Is there anyone who had a noticeable off-season adjustment? Is O’Neil Cruz 7 ft 2? Did Colin Moran eat his Wheaties and add strength? Conversely, did anyone show up being mistaken for Garth Brooks?

Tim: I always try to avoid the BSOHL stories, unless it’s something significant. We got a BSOHL remark last week with Kang. That will probably pick up steam after his homers yesterday.

Kevin S – Josh bell is my favorite player on the pirates I want him to succeed more than anybody my question is the lofty expectations we have on him what would be a success for him for this year and going forward?
Second question Gregory is recovering really good so far from what we heard do u think he will take a step forward this year from last year success or do you think it will take time for him to return to that level he was at cause of the surgery?

Tim: Bell and Polanco are two guys that I had lofty expectations for, and who I still have lofty expectations for. Bell only scratched the surface of that potential in 2017, then struggled in 2018. Polanco has shown flashes of his potential many times, but always seems to get injured right as he’s starting to heat up.

Maybe it won’t work out this easily, but I feel like the Pirates are on the right track with their “modern approach to hitting” overhaul in the system, and I feel that the new coaches might bring out a lot of that previously unseen offensive potential from those two.