The Pirates' 25-Man Roster: Another Take For Spring Training

Here's another look at the Pirates' likely 25-man roster, updated with new information from Spring Training. (Thanks to Wrv2 for prompting me.)

STARTING EIGHT

C Rod Barajas
1B Garrett Jones
2B Neil Walker
SS Clint Barmes
3B Pedro Alvarez
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Jose Tabata
OF Alex Presley

This is all pretty straightforward. The only question is regarding Alvarez. He's had two homers in 16 at bats so far this spring, but he has struck out five times and only has one additional hit, and some of his at-bats have looked poor. Spring Training stats generally aren't good predictors of performance in real games, of course, but when a guy who needs to impress the team to keep his lineup spot shows some of the same flaws that derailed his previous season, that's worth noting. I still think Alvarez will get the job, but we'll have to monitor his situation going forward.

BENCH

C Michael McKenry
1B/3B Casey McGehee
OF Nate McLouth
UT Yamaico Navarro
C/1B Jake Fox

McGehee and McLouth appear to be locks. McKenry is probably heading in that direction as well. It looked like Jose Morales would give him competition for the backup catcher spot, with Morales perhaps even having the upper hand because McKenry can be optioned to Indianapolis and Morales has an out clause. But Morales has an oblique strain and hasn't played yet.

As for the other two bench spots, your guess is as good as mine, but one will go to a utility infielder, and hopefully the other will go to someone who can hit a little. Josh Harrison is still a strong possibility for the utility job -- the Pirates are having him play some shortstop, possibly with the idea that Clint Barmes will play so regularly at that position that they won't actually need their utility infielder to play shortstop all that well. (I know UZR really liked Harrison's performance at third last year, but based on what we actually saw, I'd be very surprised if he could play shortstop adequately.) I'm still going to go with Navarro here, though -- Alex Presley is the only Pirate with more at bats than Navarro this spring, and Navarro has more offensive upside than Harrison does.

The final spot could come down to Fox or Nick Evans. Brandon Boggs has gotten a fair amount of playing time this spring, and I'm sure there's some appeal there as a switch-hitter for a team that already has a platoon at first, but ultimately, there isn't much evidence he can do much more offensively than take a walk, and having two light-hitting bench outfielders (Boggs and McLouth) seems like a bit much. Matt Hague could be a possibility too, but he doesn't give the Pirates any positional flexibility, and they didn't call him up last September. Either Fox or Evans would make sense, since they can both play multiple positions, and each of them has a chance to hit a little.

ROTATION

Erik Bedard
James McDonald
Charlie Morton
Jeff Karstens
Kevin Correia

I'm assuming that Morton will be ready to go to start the season. Since he's already pitching in games, that seems fairly safe. A.J. Burnett will be out, obviously, so for now, Correia still has his old job as the Pirates' latest incarnation of Mark Redman or whatever. (A recent headline at Pirates.com hilariously proclaimed that "Correia not focused on Opening Day start," which wouldn't top my list of concerns if I were Correia, either.) I'd love for Brad Lincoln to set the world on fire this spring and send Correia packing, but that wouldn't leave the Pirates a ton of good options in case someone got hurt before Burnett returned, and anyway, Lincoln is currently out with calf tightness.

BULLPEN

Joel Hanrahan
Chris Resop
Chris Leroux
Jason Grilli
Evan Meek
Tony Watson
Juan Cruz

The more I think about this, the less certain I am. Hanrahan, obviously, is in. After that, the two greatest certainties might be Resop and Leroux, who are both out of options. Of those, the choice of Leroux there might raise some eyebrows, but he was very good down the stretch last year and has excellent stuff. I think he makes the team on merit, and the fact that the Pirates won't want to lose him should work in his favor as well.

Grilli and Meek are in the next tier after those three. Grilli pitched well last year also, and the Pirates took him to arbitration, but he's older and more of a journeyman, so the Pirates will have the choice of dropping him if someone forces their hand. The Bucs took Meek to arbitration, too, but they can option him. I'm sure they'd love for Meek to blossom into a good setup man for Hanrahan, but for various reasons, that isn't the path his career has taken. He also doesn't throw as hard as he used to.

I'll put Watson in the 'pen as the token lefty. He hasn't looked so hot this spring, but the other lefty options (Daniel Moskos, Jo-Jo Reyes, Doug Slaten) haven't looked so great either, and Watson also had the most promising 2011 season of the bunch. Since the selection of lefties isn't very good, I'll guess that the Pirates will go with one lefty, although I'm sure Clint Hurdle would love to have two. Morton probably won't be stretched enough to go deep into games, and the Pirates' rotation as a whole lacks durability, so I think a righty who can pitch multi-inning stints would be just as useful as a second lefty would, even before considering that the righty options are arguably better than the lefty options anyway.

That means Cruz, Brad Lincoln and Daniel McCutchen could get shots. McCutchen is fine, but he's the least inspiring of those three choices, and he has options left. Lincoln has an option as well, and I'd think the Pirates would want to keep him starting, even if that means he plays in Class AAA. That leaves Cruz, who has experience as a starter, and survived, at least, in the AL East last year. In a perfect world, I think Jared Hughes actually might win this spot -- his stuff is very good, and he handled himself well in his big-league debut last year. Unfortunately, he'll probably have to wait his turn.

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