With Spring Training nearly upon us, I thought it might be useful to track Pirates players in camp, so that when you're in Bradenton or watching games at home, you can check in here to figure out who exactly you're watching. You can find all the posts I'll write for this series here. I'll ignore players who made significant contributions to the 2015 roster. So here's a look at the catchers on the Bucs' Spring Training roster, leaving out Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.
Reese McGuire (uniform No. 84): McGuire, of course, was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft, and he's now the Pirates' sixth-ranked prospect. (Bucs Dugout's ongoing community ranking also has McGuire at No. 6.) McGuire's defense is outstanding, so when he gets into games, that's what you want to watch for. The questions are how much he'll hit, or maybe how much his great defense can compensate for his hitting. McGuire batted just .254/.301/.294 last season for Bradenton. He was very young (20) and had defensive responsibilities most players don't have, and scouts have long had at least somewhat good things to say about his hitting, so there could be more room than usual for him to continue to develop at Altoona this year. If he does, it could be the difference between him being a starter or a reserve in the majors (although MLB.com, which recently named McGuire the fourth-best catching prospect in the minors, recently suggested his defense was so strong that he could be a regular even if he hit poorly). This spring, expect him to be among the first couple rounds of cuts.
Chance of contributing in 2016: Low
Elias Diaz (66): Diaz is a bit like McGuire, but there's a lot less uncertainty in how he projects. He's much older than McGuire (25) and closer to the majors, and he's already on the 40-man roster. Like McGuire's, Diaz's defense is very highly regarded. Unlike McGuire, Diaz has at least somewhat of an offensive track record, having batted .271/.330/.382 at Indianapolis last year, and his willingness to take walks bodes well. Diaz has two options remaining and appears very likely to start the year in Indianapolis, but he'll be the first man up if Cervelli has a significant injury. With a good year at Indy, Diaz could also take over for Cervelli in 2017.
Chance of contributing in 2016: High
Ed Easley (70): The 30-year-old Easley is a former early-round pick of the Diamondbacks who spent several years slogging through the minors. After a breakout in 2013, he headed to the Cardinals organization, had a good year at the plate in 2014, and finally made it to the big leagues last season. Easley's promotion was due, though, to a Cardinals catcher shortage, not to his performance -- he batted just .251/.345/.337 with Triple-A Memphis in 2015. The Pirates signed him to a minor-league deal this winter. Given the likelihood that Diaz will be at Indianapolis, it doesn't appear likely Easley will play all that much unless there's an injury somewhere. He could wind up in the big leagues if Stewart gets hurt or Cervelli has a mild injury, but the Bucs probably wouldn't let him stay there long.
Chances of contributing in 2016: Moderate
Jacob Stallings (83): The beginning of Stallings' pro career is a weird little footnote in Pirates history. From 2008 through 2011, the Pirates spent incredibly heavily on the draft, throwing money at every tall high school hurler they could. In 2012, though, they were governed by the new draft rules that everyone hates. They took Stallings, a senior from UNC, in the seventh round, taking advantage of his lack of leverage by signing him for just $10,000 even though the pool value of his pick was 15 times that. They probably meant to spend the savings on Mark Appel, who ultimately didn't sign. Signing seniors to save money to sign other players has become a common trick, of course, and the Bucs also did it with two other players in the ninth and tenth rounds that year. But Stallings was the first player they tried it with. Given those inauspicious beginnings, his minor-league career has gone well -- his defense is highly regarded, and though he's not an outstanding hitter, he has at least retained most of his offensive productivity as he's moved up, batting .275/.313/.370 at Altoona last year (although he struck out four times for every walk, which isn't a great sign). He isn't a prized asset (the Pirates left him unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft last year, and no one took him), but it wouldn't be a shock if he made it to the majors anyway. He'll start the 2016 season somewhere in the high minors.
Chances of contributing in 2016: Moderate to low