Thursday, February 14, 2013

Camp Drills

All the troops are supposed to report in by today, and by tomorrow the horsehide should be flying. The team still has a few spots that are up for grabs. Here's the quick outline:

Outfield: Cutch is in, Starling Marte is in, Travis Snider is probably in. Jose Tabata has a foot up as the fourth guy. Snider and JT have fairly even L/R splits, so the major question is whether the FO is going to let Snider run with the job or platoon with Tabata. Alex Presley and Jerry Sands both have an option and are likely to join Felix Pie at Indy, giving the Bucs a pretty capable trio in AAA if called upon. Sands has some potential as a boomer, and Presley and Pie have held their own as fourth outfielder types in the show.

Infield: It should look familiar; Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez at first, Neil Walker at second, Clint Barmes at short and Pedro Alvarez at third. The fight will be for the two back-ups. Brad Inge and Ivan DeJesus, both on minor league deals, will try to unseat Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison, who both have minor league options remaining. It should be an interesting competition; the decision might be influenced by roster flexibility, as neither Inge nor DeJesus are on the 40-man roster. Even if they start at Indy, both provide MLB options during the season.

Clint Robinson will start at Indy; he's here to serve as Garrett Jones insurance. Chase d'Arnaud has lost his prospect status over the past couple of seasons, and Matt Hague will be in camp, but isn't going to challenge Gaby Sanchez.

Catcher: Russell Martin starts, Mike McKenry backs up, and Tony Sanchez starts out at Indy with Lucas May.

Starting Pitching: AJ Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald are in, and a big cast will audition for the remaining two spots. Jeff Karstens returns, along with Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson. Jonathan Sanchez is in camp on a minor league deal. Francisco Liriano likely has the fourth spot reserved, but his broken arm, according to the current timetable, will probably land him on the 15 day DL to open the season. Jeanmar Gomez was picked up from Cleveland, and he's not only a darkhorse but out of options. He could be in the bullpen mix, too.

The Pirates have a lot of depth - Gerrit Cole, Justin Wilson and Andy Oliver, along with up-and-coming Phil Irwin, will be at Indy, and Charlie Morton will return by mid-summer. With a lot of depth comes a lot of options. The guess is that Karstens and Locke will break camp with the team. McPherson doesn't have much AAA experience, and Sanchez is coming off an injury, so there are reasons to start conservatively with them, though they may be superior stuff-wise. It's a good problem to have.

Bullpen: Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Jared Hughes and Tony Watson are in, leaving three spots. Bryan Morris and Chris Leroux are likely to land spots, and a good thing, as both are out of options. That leaves the decision to Clint Hurdle - does he want another lefty, like Justin Wilson or Mike Zagurski, or go with a righty like Vin Mazzaro or Jeanmar Gomez? And will Jeff Karstens return to the pen sometime during the year, setting off a domino effect?


WilliamJPellas said...

Boy, do I want to get a long look at Justin Wilson in Pittsburgh. The longer current trends continue, though, the more I'm thinking he is going to end up trade bait. Now, I don't mind the Pirates taking a flyer on a guy like Jonathan Sanchez, who if healthy is a power lefty like Wilson. But the Pirates now have the first wave of homegrown pitchers hitting the big leagues, and to my mind none of the following guys have anything more to prove in the minors. I'm talking about Wilson, Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke, and possibly Kyle McPherson, though he could perhaps use another half season in Triple A for fine-tuning. But that's four major league ready arms who are basically rotting on the shelf at Indianapolis. To my mind, they are not going to get any better at that level, and the longer they stay on the farm and the older they get, the lower their trade value goes---if trade commodities is ultimately what they will be instead of homegrown Pirates.

I have no problem with the team dealing a couple of them if it brings a veteran who will put us over the top into a wildcard spot, for example. But I DO have a problem with the front office apparently being mostly unwilling to play ANY of them at the big league level. What's going on here, Ron?

Ron Ieraci said...

I'm not sure if the Bucs FO isn't sold on them - McPherson and Wilson both have good stuff and could fit into mid-rotation slots - or they just can't overcome the urge to collect, which I've railed over before. Collecting wouldn't be so bad with an occasional hit, but their evaluations don't have much of a track record; Garrett Jones is about it.

Sanchez has a spring opt-out clause (late march, I think) if he's not on the 40-man, and I think he and Liriano are seen as insurance for J-Mac and deadline bait. But the FO works in mysterious ways; we'll see how they deal with the crowd they've gathered.