Pirates’ Opening Day Roster Prediction: March 1st

Edinson Volquez Pirates

March has arrived, meaning an actual baseball game will be played on the last day of this month. Here’s a guess at how the roster will look when the Cubs roll into PNC Park on March 31st…

1. Francisco Liriano
2. Gerrit Cole
3. Charlie Morton
4. Wandy Rodriguez
5. Edinson Volquez

6. Jason Grilli
7. Mark Melancon
8. Tony Watson
9. Justin Wilson
10. Bryan Morris
11. Vin Mazzaro
12. Stolmy Pimentel

13. Russell Martin
14. Chris Stewart

15. Gaby Sanchez
16. Andrew Lambo
17. Neil Walker
18. Pedro Alvarez
19. Jordy Mercer
20. Clint Barmes
21. Josh Harrison

22. Andrew McCutchen
23. Starling Marte
24. Jose Tabata
25. Travis Snider

First Four Out: Jeff Locke, Jeanmar Gomez, Tony Sanchez, Brent Morel

Right now, the roster is looking pretty set. The $5 million man, Edinson Volquez, beats out Locke thanks to his contract and Locke’s MiLB options. Wandy Rodriguez is the wild card, but a healthy Wandy obviously gets a spot, too. The final three bullpen spots come down to four players: Morris, Mazzaro, Pimentel, and Gomez. A move has to be made or an injury may pop up, so any one of the four could be left out. Tony Sanchez will be Indy’s catcher to start the year (and he’s pretty accepting of that) but he’s probably the closest AAA player to making an impact. Brent Morel vs. Josh Harrison will battle for the last bench spot, though I think J-Hay has a leg up right now. Jose Tabata and Travis Snider in right field until Gregory Polanco takes over. Will a first baseman be acquired in the coming weeks? Lambo gets his share of the first base platoon for now. Let’s see how much this list changes in the next 30 days…

Go Bucs

Photo: Elsa/Getty

Gerrit Cole could get sent down? Unfortunate, but true

Gerrit Cole

Before Gerrit Cole had ever thrown a pitch in Major League Baseball, the common conclusion among Pirates fans was that when he finally arrived in Pittsburgh, he’d stay here for good. The organization wasn’t going to rush him – when they felt he was ready, he’d come up and stay up.

Not so fast.

As of Saturday, June 22nd, here are the pitchers on the Bucco roster:

Jeff Locke
Francisco Liriano
Charlie Morton

Jason Grilli
Mark Melancon
Justin Wilson
Tony Watson
Bryan Morris
Vin Mazzaro
Ryan Reid
Duke Welker

And here are the pitchers currently on the 15-day disabled list who are eligible to come off very soon:

A.J. Burnett
Wandy Rodriguez
James McDonald
Jeanmar Gomez
Jared Hughes

Jeanmar Gomez will return next week. A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez are locks to come back – not yet, but soon. Decision day is looming for James McDonald, and it is believed that the Pirates could cut ties with him. Jared Hughes has options remaining, so he’ll get sent back to Indy. Keep in mind that Jose Tabata will be coming off the disabled list soon as well.

Obviously, injuries can potentially alter any of these plans and open up a spot, but you’d hate to see anyone else get hurt.

Assuming J-Mac gets canned (if he doesn’t, it makes it an even worse situation), that’s three pitchers that need spots, two of which will result in Ryan Reid and Duke Welker heading back to Triple-A (both have options). But that final roster spot will be hard to clear…

Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Francisco Liriano, and Charlie Morton are definite locks to remain. Here are the ones who have minor league options and/or could lose their jobs:

Justin Wilson? Has options remaining, deserves to stay, won’t go down.
Tony Watson? Has options, can’t envision the Pirates sending him down.
Bryan Morris? Has an option, shouldn’t go but could possibly be odd man out.
Vin Mazzaro? No options, has fared well, Bucs would probably hate to lose him.
Jeff Locke? Has options remaining but has seriously been one of the best pitchers in the league this year.
Gerrit Cole? Should not be sent down, but may be the easiest of the bunch to remove…

Ron Cook managed to explain it all very well in his piece “Gerrit Cole case for Pirates — business or baseball” on Friday. Be sure to give it a read.

Basically, the Pirates don’t want Cole to fall into “Super 2” status, which revolves around his arbitration clock going off sooner than the club would like it to. Here’s how Cook explains the special status:

[quote_simple]”The top 22 percent of players with the most major-league service time between two and three years will become eligible for salary arbitration after the 2015 season. Hence, the term Super 2. The other 78 percent won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season. The difference could mean millions to the players and the clubs.”[/quote_simple]

At the end of the day, the Pirates would be clearing a roster spot and also saving themselves money.

While we, as fans, should understand the business move, it honestly hurts. We’ve all seen more from Cole in three starts than we’ve seen from so many other pitchers since “The Streak” began 20 years ago. He’s gone out against the Giants, Dodgers, and Angels – facing Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, and Jered Weaver – and escaped with three victories. Cole ramped his fastball up to 101 miles per hour on Friday night, which is the fastest by a pitcher not named Justin Verlander in the past five years.

The Bucs are in a position to contend, and Gerrit Cole has the stuff to help them out big time. It’s not a guarantee that he’ll be sent back to Indianapolis, but the Bucco fan base will be pretty disappointed if he does.

EDIT: Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects argues that Cole may get sent down due to pitching depth, rather than Super 2 protection.

EDIT 2: Bob Nutting claims that a demotion of Cole will not be money-based.




Opening Day Roster Comparison: 2012 vs. 2013

After a long spring of various injuries and positional battles, the Pirates are finally headed north to start the 2013 season. The 25-man roster is set with a bit of a different look than last year – just 12 of 25 players remain from the 2012 Opening Day roster. Here’s a look, position by position, how the roster looked in April last year vs. April this year…

2012 Rotation:

2013 Rotation:

Erik Bedard

A.J. Burnett

Jeff Karstens

Wandy Rodriguez

James McDonald

James McDonald

Kevin Correia

Jonathan Sanchez

Jeff Locke

The Bucs rolled with four starters to start the year, not needing a fifth until later in April. A.J. Burnett and Charlie Morton were forced to begin 2012 on the DL; this year, Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Karstens are in that position. Erik Bedard (Houston) and Kevin Correia (Minnesota) have moved on, while Wandy Rodriguez, Jonathan Sanchez, Jeff Locke take over. James McDonald is the one constant in the scenario.

The starting rotation is proof that the Opening Day roster doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, since it will surely change. Last year, the entire makeup was altered – Bedard was released in August, Karstens was hurt, and J-Mac and Correia were demoted to the bullpen on different occasions. We expect some fluctuation again this year, as Liriano, Karstens, Morton, Gerrit Cole, and other reinforcements are on the way.

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2012 Bullpen:

2013 Bullpen:

Joel Hanrahan

Jason Grilli

Jason Grilli

Mark Melancon

Chris Resop

Tony Watson

Evan Meek

Jared Hughes

Juan Cruz

Justin Wilson

Tony Watson

Chris Leroux

Jared Hughes

Jeanmar Gomez

The ‘pen underwent a big change, with its leader, Joel Hanrahan, traded to Boston. Jason Grilli assumes the closer role, while Mark Melancon takes over some of the late inning work. Last year’s Opening Day middle/set-up men, Chris Resop, Evan Meek, and Juan Cruz, are succeeded by 2012’s young guns, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes. Justin Wilson, Chris Leroux, and Jeanmar Gomez take the last three bullpen spots.

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2012 Catchers:

2013 Catchers:

Rod Barajas

Russell Martin

Michael McKenry

Michael McKenry

Rod Barajas was a huge disappointment in 2012, hitting just .206/.283/.343 in 104 games. He continued to see playing time since he was Burnett’s “personal catcher,” knowing each other from their days in Toronto. Now, Russell Martin, another one of A.J.’s former catchers, takes charge of the catching situation. Martin has already put himself in the middle of some controversy this offseason (here, here, and here), but hopefully the $17-million-man works out for the Pirates. Michael “The Fort” McKenry returns as the backup catcher.

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2012 Infielders:

2013 Infielders:

Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

Clint Barmes

Clint Barmes

Matt Hague

Josh Harrison

Josh Harrison

Garrett Jones

Garrett Jones

John McDonald

Casey McGehee

Gaby Sanchez

Yamaico Navarro

Neil Walker

Neil Walker

Starting 2012 with a four-man pitching staff allowed the Bucs to keep an extra infielder. The starters remain intact – Garrett Jones 1B, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Clint Barmes SS. Gaby Sanchez looks to develop some sort of platoon at first with Garrett Jones, while Josh Harrison and John McDonald can back up the other three spots. Gaby could bounce back, J-Hay has another year of experience, and McDonald is the “prime minister of defense” – which leads us to believe that the infield depth is a bit stronger this year. “The Hit Collector” Matt Hague didn’t do much in 2012, Yamaico Navarro was even worse, and Casey McGehee was traded to the Yankees in July.

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2012 Outfielders:

2013 Outfielders:

Andrew McCutchen

Starling Marte

Nate McLouth

Andrew McCutchen

Alex Presley

Travis Snider

Jose Tabata

Jose Tabata

The starting outfield has a different look in 2013. Alex Presley and Jose Tabata flanked Andrew McCutchen in the opener last year, but Starling Marte and Travis Snider will get the honors on Monday. Tabata beat out Presley for the bench spot, likely due to his right-handed bat and zero options remaining. Tabata gets another chance to show what he’s capable of, although we aren’t really sure what to expect.

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There’s just a 48% retention rate of players from last Opening Day, which is a pretty big jump. However, the Pirates’ young core, consisting of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez, has another year of experience under their belt, and a bunch of steady players have built a decent club around them. Will it be enough to finish over .500 in 2013?

Pirates set roster with final cuts

Here are today’s roster moves…

– OF Alex Presley – Optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis

– RHP Kyle McPherson – Optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis

– INF Jordy Mercer – Optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis

– OF Felix Pie – Reassigned to minor league camp

– LHP Mike Zagurski – Reassigned to minor league camp

– RHP Vin Mazzaro – Reassigned to minor league camp

– RHP Ryan Reid – Reassigned to minor league camp

– C Lucas May – Reassigned to minor league camp

– C Carlos Paulino – Reassigned to minor league camp

This means that Jeff Locke earned the fifth spot in the rotation, with McPherson slated to start the year in the minors. Josh Harrison beat out Presley, Pie, and Mercer, although they all played well this spring. Jeanmar Gomez, Justin Wilson, and Chris Leroux get the final three bullpen jobs, ahead of Zagurski, Mazzaro, and Reid. The two catchers, May and Paulino, were used in big league camp in order to rest Russell Martin and Michael McKenry throughout the preseason grind.

With all these moves, here’s how the roster is shaping up…

Rotation – Burnett, Rodriguez, Ja. McDonald, J. Sanchez, Locke

Bullpen – Grilli, Melancon, Hughes, Watson, Wilson, Leroux, Gomez

Catchers – Martin, McKenry

Infielders – Jones, G. Sanchez, Walker, Barmes, Alvarez, Harrison, Jo. McDonald

Outfielders – Marte, McCutchen, Snider, Tabata

It looks like Brandon Inge will go on the disabled list for sure; the Pirates have some other injury/40-man roster decisions to sort through as well.

EDIT: According to the Pirates Twitter account, the team has designated Clint Robinson and Hunter Strickland for assignment in order to make room on the 4o-man roster for Inge and Jonathan Sanchez.

Click HERE to view our updated depth chart.

Bucs beat O’s in walk-off fashion

Jeff Locke started with the ball against the Orioles today at McKechnie. Locke faced 18 batters over 3.1 innings, and allowed a whopping eight hits. Baltimore only crossed the plate twice against him, keeping the score close. Phil Irwin also saw plenty of action this afternoon, surrendering one run over 3.2 innings. “Philthy Phil” was filthy once again, striking out seven and walking none. Here’s a look at his ridiculous curveball from last week’s game vs. Boston (via FanGraphs):

Bryan Morris and Kris Johnson tacked on scoreless innings for the Bucs.

At the plate, the Pirates struggled to get much going through the first six innings of play. However, they scored runs in consecutive innings to mount a comeback; they trailed 3-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Alex Presley singled with one out to put men on first and third. The next batter, Josh Harrison, converted a perfect hit-and-run to tie the game and keep runners on the corners. Minor league catcher Carlos Paulino rolled a grounder to second, but it was enough to get Presley home and secure a 4-3 walk-off victory.

After a three-game losing skid, the Bucs won twice on Sunday and pieced together a nice comeback victory today. No game tomorrow, but they’ll be back in action on Wednesday vs. Toronto. Clint Hurdle & Co. will be meeting to decide upon the first round of cuts; you can expect those to come either tomorrow or Wednesday.

Go Bucs