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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    11,593

    Position Overview

    This week I'll be doing overviews of the various positions. I'll break it into five parts: catcher/first base, infield, outfield, rotation and bullpen

    Catcher and 1st Base

    Catcher: With both Cervelli and Diaz set to return next year the Pirates can be set at the catcher position next year but a trade of Cervelli remains a possibility. If Cervelli is dealt the Pirates could bring in a veteran backup catcher or go with Jacob Stallings who is out of options. Without a trade Stallings will likely be removed from the 40 man roster though I do think he could be potentially dealt to someone but the return would be minimal. Ryan Lavarnway will likely be removed from the 40 man roster but if Stallings is let go it would make sense to try and bring him back as the third catcher to stash in AAA. If Cervelli is retained the catching position figures to be one of the Pirates strongest ones heading into the offseason.

    1st Base: Josh Bell figures to get another chance at being the regular 1B in 2019 but so far he hasn't shown anything beyond an average bat and poor defense. The Pirates will need Bell to take a step forward if they want to be competitive next year. Its possible Cervelli could see more time at the position in both an attempt to keep him healthy and to get Diaz more playing time. Jose Osuna figures to be the primary backup option but he too needs to show improvement in the majors plus likely the ability to play another position at least adequately. Beyond those three I think its possible Colin Moran could see some time at 1B especially if Kang is brought back but that is a discussion for another day. The first base position appears weak but the Pirates will likely bank on the upside of Josh Bell.
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  2. #2
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    Dec 2005
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    Infield

    2nd Base: The incumbent I suppose would be Josh Harrison but it seems highly unlikely his option is picked up and I doubt the Pirates will try and bring him back. Beyond him the Pirates have a variety of young options they could try at the position. Adam Frazier likely heads that list and unless the Pirates opt to have him cover RF to begin the season I think the odds of him being the regular starter at 2B to open the season are good. Behind him the Pirates have Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman, Max Moroff and Pablo Reyes who could all be options at the position. With all that being said second base is not a position likely set in stone for the Pirates and it happens to be one of the more interesting positions from a free agency perspective this year so perhaps the Pirates will look for someone via that route. Going with Frazier though would be a reasonable decision.

    3rd Base: Moran's 2017 AAA power surge did not carry over to this season and while he hit ok he was a liability in the field. It seems unlikely the Pirates will pursue an outside addition to start over Moran but there is Jung Ho Kang who could be retained and if he is one has to figure he'd have a goo chance of taking back the regular role. Outside of those two Ke'Bryan Hayes could potentially impact the position midseason. While the Pirates probably should do something to address this position it seems likely Moran will be given a chance to prove himself.

    Shortstop: Unlike Harrison I believe there is a reasonable chance Jordy Mercer is resigned. I'm not really in favor of such a move as shortstop seems to be the most likely place for the Pirates to pursue an upgrade. The only real internal option is Kevin Newman and he just didn't look up to the task last year. It would be shocking to see the Pirates not bring in some kind of shortstop but whether it is someone to be the regular starter or a veteran to mentor/split time with Newman remains to be seen.
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  3. #3
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    Dec 2005
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    11,593
    Outfield

    Left Field: The likely player to man this position is Corey Dickerson. He had a very solid season and will probably return but he is due a fairly substantial arb raise so I wouldn't say it is 100% certain he is brought back. If he isn't the Pirates will have to pursue an outside addition for the outfield. If he is retained than he is an adequate option for left field going into next year. I know there is a push among some to sign him to an extension but I think that would be unwise.

    Center Field: Easiest position on the diamond to discuss. Starling Marte is essentially the new face of the team and will undoubtedly be manning the position next year. He is a great player and any team would be happy to have him though he is underwhelming as the de facto best player on the team.

    Right Field: Polanco is the incumbent here but his injury will sideline him for at least the first couple months of the season so the Pirates will need to look elsewhere. Free agency or trade is a possibility or Frazier could slide out here from second base. If they opt to go entirely internally Luplow is probably the next guy up. I'd like to see what he could do in a bench role but as an everyday right fielded he'd leave a lot to be desired. Beyond him Pablo Reyes will probably play some outfield as part of his utility profile and Jose Osuna will probably be asked to play a bit along with his backup 1B duties.
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  4. #4
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    Dec 2005
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    Starting Rotation

    Locks: Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams

    I think it is rather obvious that the above guys have 4 of the 5 rotation spots spoken for. Taillon and Williams both had very good 2018 seasons so the Pirates are highly unlikely to remove either of them. Chris Archer was of course a big deadline acquisition and has top of the rotation upside so moving on from him seems highly unlikely. Musgrove showed flashes of success but also struggled at times. Still I think there was enough good in there that replacing him in the rotation is not going to happen. There may not be a true ace in that group but its a very solid group of starting pitchers and is probably a strength of the club heading into the offseason.

    5th Starter: Ivan Nova

    If he is not traded Nova will undoubtedly take the last rotation spot but there is a fairly good chance he is dealt at some point. Keeping him wouldn't be a bad option as he was useful last year but the Pirates could opt to go with a younger option like Nick Kingham in his place. I wouldn't mind seeing the Pirates trade him and then sign a high risk/ high reward option but I don't see that route as particularly likely.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    11,593
    Bullpen

    Locks: Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez

    These four players are likely to form the back end of the Pirates bullpen. Vazquez is of course a very good closer to have on the back end and Kela is a capable closer in his own right but he'll likely be handling the 8th inning duties. Crick gives the Pirates a good young pen arm with back of the bullpen upside and Rodriguez will try to show his success after being signed as a minor league free agent wasn't just a one time thing. All and all this looks like a very stable back end of the pen but bullpens are the most volatile part of a team so caution is advised.

    Others: Steven Brault, Nick Kingham, Nick Burdi, Michael Feliz, Dovydas Neverauskas

    Its quite possible one or more of the remaining bullpen spots will go to players not currently with the Pirates but as of now these five appear to be the favorites to land those 3 or potentially 4 open spots. Kingham is out of options so unless he takes over a rotation spot it seems likely though not assured he will be taking one of those spots. Burdi is an intriguing arm still saddled with Rule V restrictions so if the Pirates want to retain him than he has to make the team. The other three could all be optioned down to the minors (even Brault who I thought was out of options but he isn't). Of that group I'd give a slight edge to Brault as he is the most likely to remain with the team and is the only lefty other than Vazquez.


    Next Week
    Next week I'll enter much more speculation territory as I discuss potential free agents the Pirates could sign. The plan is to stay mainly realistic though there will be one day where I allow myself to dream a little.
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