Believe it or not, we’re less than a month from the start of Spring Training. As we approach reporting dates, here’s a look at who the Pirates are taking to camp, position by position. I’ll mostly ignore players who are already on the 40-man roster, since you’re likely already familiar with them. I’ll update this series of posts if more players are added, so feel free to use this series as a resource once Spring Training actually starts.
First up are catchers, who join pitchers in arriving at Spring Training early. Catchers are a special case -- for, say, an outfielder, a Spring Training invite typically indicates something, like that a player is interesting or close to the majors. With catchers, that isn’t necessarily true. There typically have to be many of them available simply because of all the pitchers who will need someone to throw to. With that in mind, here’s who the Pirates are bringing this year.
Francisco Cervelli (No. 29)
Chris Stewart (19)
Elias Diaz (32)
Jin-De Jhang (82): The best prospect of the Pirates’ non-roster catchers, although that’s not saying much. The Pirates signed Jhang out of Taiwan in 2011, and he’s hit pretty well as he’s moved through the minors, including batting .290/.338/.383 for Altoona last season. He doesn’t hit for much power or draw many walks, although he’s shown he can hit for average, and he isn’t particularly old. He was blocked by Reese McGuire and a rehabbing Stewart for much of last year, though, and only got a total of 227 plate appearances all season, and then the Pirates left him exposed in the Rule 5 Draft. Those are all indications that the Bucs don’t take him that seriously.
Christian Kelley (83): Kelley was the Pirates’ 11th-round pick in the 2015 draft. He hasn’t hit much in the low minors (he batted .248/.317/.317 between West Virginia and Bradenton last season) and is nowhere near the majors. He’ll likely be the first catcher of this group the Pirates send to minor league camp.
Jacob Stallings (58): You probably remember Stallings from such great moments as this and his dad being a basketball coach. Beyond that, Stallings is 27 and has already been outrighted twice, once in July and again after the season. He’s essentially an organizational catcher, although there’s a decent chance he’ll wind up back in the big leagues at some point, since the Pirates have two aging catchers at the big-league level and the next man up, Diaz, has had injury issues.
Jackson Williams (87): The Pirates signed Williams to a minor-league deal earlier this month after 10 seasons in the Giants and Rockies organizations. He’s well regarded defensively and played briefly in the big leagues in 2014 and 2015 but hasn’t hit at all in the past two seasons, both of which he’s played mostly at the Double-A level. The two Double-A teams the 30-year-old has played for have been the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Hartford Yard Goats, which must be really awkward names to have to use when you want to convince your significant other’s parents you’re a serious person. (As the 30-something editor of something called Bucs Dugout dot com, I write from experience.) He could join Jhang at Altoona this season.