All rightie, it's time to fill in the blanks on the 40-man roster today, prior to the December 12th Rule 5 draft. While the Bucs are brimming with ballplayers, many of them are still too young to be included. The two that are absolute locks to join the 40-man are:
OF Gregory Polanco: He's tearing up the winter league, was just named the Pirates top prospect by Baseball America and could have a mid summer ETA for the show.
SS Alen Hanson: The only other Top Ten prospect that needs protected this year. He has enough upside to be carried on a roster as the 25th guy, and is the Pirates main middle infield hopeful.
The Bucs have a handful of pitchers that they may or may not add, but it seems like every season, they pull someone up unexpectedly (see Kyle McPherson) from the system. The candidates this year are:
RHP Casey Sadler: His Altoona line was 11-7/3.31 ERA, and the 23 year old features a hard sinker. Right now, he looks a lot like he's following in Brandon Cumpton's footsteps as a possible back-end starter or long reliever. A season at AA and a projected seventh man in the pen makes him a guy that could stick with some club.
LHP Joely Rodriguez: The 22 year old lefty only reached Bradenton, but with a fastball is that is consistently 90-93 mph, touching 95, with natural run and sink, a good change and in-progress slider. JR has a good ground ball rate of over 50% and is projected as a back-end reliever and could tempt a team that's not deep in its bullpen.
RHP Zach Thornton: Between Altoona and Indy last season, he averaged 11 K per nine with a funky motion that seems to keep hitters off balance, and that will attract some attention for the 25 year old.
All three have a chance to be taken, or at least considered, by a club looking to the future and with an open spot in the bullpen. The position players, well, they're probably not gonna be in demand as much with Polanco and Hansen off the board.
SS Gift Ngoepe: The 23 year old has a MLB-level glove and some, but his bat hasn't produced past the A level of ball. Some teams carry a middle infielder purely for defense, and Ngoepe can pick with the best. His bat will probably keep him off the dance card, but he's got a puncher's chance of getting selected.
C Carlos Paulino: Like Ngoepe, he has the MLB defensive chops but the bat isn't very strong. He's an insurance policy in Pittsburgh, fourth on the depth chart, but catcher is a premium position and somebody may want to carry a defensively competent catcher.
1B Stetson Allie: He'd really be a stretch. His fielding isn't very good at this point, and while he crushed some balls in Low A, he was stymied in High A at Bradenton. Allie piled up 161 K between the two stops. Maybe next year he'll be at risk, but we think he's safe this season. He's be a tough guy to stash in a MLB dugout, even as a DH.
1B Matt Curry, 1B Matt Hague, OF Mel Rojas...we don't see it.
The Bucs have four openings on the 40-man, and lots of soft spots on the list to work with. We'd expect to see Polanco, Hansen and a couple of pitchers added, and maybe the FO will swap out a couple of old prospects for newer ones, or drop the guys they don't intend to tender for arbitration. You'll notice that the current 40-man roster below already carries Brandon Cumpton, Phil Irwin, Kyle McPherson, Andy Oliver, Chase d'Arnaud, Jerry Sands and Travis Snider, so it's already protecting a lot of young talent.
40 Man Roster (at 36 Players):
Pitchers (20): Gerrit Cole, Brandon Cumpton, Jeanmar Gomez, Jason Grilli, Jared Hughes, Phil Irwin, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Vin Mazzaro, Kyle McPherson, Mark Melancon, Bryan Morris, Charlie Morton, Andy Oliver, Stolmy Pimentel, Ryan Reid, Wandy Rodriguez, Tony Watson, Duke Welker and Justin Wilson.
Catchers (3): Russ Martin, Mike McKenry and Tony Sanchez.
Infielders (7): Pedro Alvarez, Chase d'Arnaud, Josh Harrison, Garrett Jones, Jordy Mercer, Gaby Sanchez and Neil Walker.
Outfielders (6): Andrew Lambo, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Jerry Sands, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata.