Maybe it's too soon, but this is an interesting subject to me because of the scrambling the Pirates have had to do with their bench this year. Partly due to the heavy focus on prep pitching in many of the current regime's early drafts, the team hasn't had an influx of position prospects yet. In fact, it hasn't had a large influx of prospects of any kind, due to the long development process with teenage pitchers. The result, as we've discussed here quite a bit lately, has been a AAA roster loaded with minor league veterans. Next year, that could and should change in a big way. Just consider what the Indianapolis roster potentially could look like next year:
Catcher: Elias Diaz, Jacob Stallings. With Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart getting well into their arbitration years, and Tony Sanchez and Diaz seemingly providing ready replacements, I thought it was likely the Pirates would let Stewart go. The current catching tandem has been very productive, though, and Stewart has become Gerrit Cole's catcher most of the time, so I don't see that happening now. Meanwhile, Sanchez has had a bad year at AAA and is out of options after this year, so I don't see him with the organization next year unless he clears waivers. Stallings, meanwhile, is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but he doesn't have a high ceiling and catchers aren't generally sought-after in that draft, so he may still be around even if the Pirates don't add him to the 40-man roster. Diaz is major-league ready now. Stallings probably would be capable of filling in briefly with a little time in AAA, because he's mainly a glove guy and his defense is very strong now.
First Base: Josh Bell, Jose Osuna. Bell clearly will open 2016 in AAA, but if he makes reasonable progress, it shouldn't be too far into the season before he eliminates the need for the Jaff Deckers and Travis Ishikawas. Osuna has put up solid numbers since moving up to AA and, like Bell, can play the outfield as well as first, so there's no particular reason (beyond fascination with guys like Hunter Morris and John Bowker) for him not to move up. Also, Osuna has hit much better against LHPs than RHPs the last two years, so he might ultimately save them from using a guy who hits like a third-string shortstop as part of a first base platoon.
Middle Infield: Alen Hanson, Max Moroff, Adam Frazier, Gift Ngoepe. There's no reason on earth for the Pirates to claim every middle infielder who goes on waivers over the next four months like they did a year ago. Hanson should get serious consideration for a job with the major league team next year, but that would require the Pirates to get over their belief that young players can't be backups. Moroff will have to be added to the roster. Ngoepe will be a minor league free agent after the season, so he'll return only if the Pirates add him to the roster. The middle infield situation will be the clearest test of the Pirates' willingness to start relying on their own prospects for depth rather than washed-up veterans.
Third Base: Dan Gamache. As a major leaguer, Gamache probably profiles as a utility guy, but third is his best position. He's gotten off to a good start since being promoted to AAA and could potentially provide a solid lefty bench bat.
Outfield: Willy Garcia, Keon Broxton, Andrew Lambo. Garcia and Broxton have both been hitting well after slow starts in AAA. Garcia is a classic right fielder with a great arm, while Broxton is a plus defender in center and has turned into a prolific base stealer. They both have strike zone issues, so they're high-risk players, but they'd provide far more upside than Decker. Believe it or not, Lambo has two options left. After missing essentially all of this year, he's unlikely to open 2016 in the majors, although it's also possible the Pirates could remove him from the 40-man roster. Other outfield possibilities are Osuna and Frazier. There's a lot of depth here, which should make it unnecessary for the Pirates to rely on players like Decker and Gorkys Hernandez.
Rotation: Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Steven Brault, Angel Sanchez, Casey Sadler, Chad Kuhl. Eventually Nick Kingham, Brandon Cumpton. (Radhames Liz has no options left, so if the Pirates do the obvious and call him up in September, he'll have to make the major league roster next spring.) Obviously, there's huge upside here. The one flaw is that this group probably won't provide any depth for the early part of the season because none of these guys is likely to be major league-ready at that point. Also, Sanchez and Sadler are both questionable from a health standpoint right now. Kuhl doesn't miss bats, but he could turn into the next Cumpton, and wouldn't we all like to have the actual Cumpton available right now? I'm sure the Pirates will want to bring in a veteran turnaround candidate or two, but if Sanchez and Sadler are healthy (assuming Sanchez is added to the 40-man roster and Sadler isn't removed), I'm not sure where the team would put a veteran starter. Sanchez, by the way, will have two options left if he's added back to the roster.
Bullpen: John Holdzkom, Rob Scahill. Holdzkom will have two options left. Scahill will have one. (Even if the Pirates option him after he's done rehabbing, he won't spend enough time in the minors to burn the option.) This is the one spot where the Bucs have a clear need for veteran depth.