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Pirates spring training infielders: Who are these guys?

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Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Again, I won’t go over the players who appear to be locks to make the team out of spring training. Among infielders, this would be Josh Bell, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and David Freese. (For some reason, the Pirates’ web site lists Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez as outfielders.) I’ll include Colin Moran here because he’s new and shiny.

Previous Installments:

Catchers

Kevin Kramer (No. 72): After a couple of solid seasons to start his career, Kramer had half of a breakout season with Altoona in 2017, hitting for significantly increased power. Unfortunately, he missed the second half of it with a broken hand. Kramer played short in the Arizona Fall League, but he’s probably limited to second long-term. The Pirates’ upper-level infield situation is getting crowded, but Kramer should be in line to start at second for Indianapolis. If he continues his 2017 hitting, a callup could be possible, especially if Josh Harrison gets traded. Kramer has to go on the 40-man roster after the 2018 season, anyway.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Moderate

Colin Moran (No. 19): In case you’ve been away, Moran came over in the Gerrit Cole trade. Drafted sixth overall by the Marlins in 2013, he disappointed Miami with a lack of power. After altering his swing, he suddenly started hitting for power last year in AAA, although his season was shortened by injury. He’s probably just adequate defensively. Moran should be in line to be the starter at third for the Pirates if he doesn’t get Hurdled. He has a history of large platoon splits, so he could be a candidate to be platooned with Sean Rodriguez or David Freese. That way he can learn to hit same-handed pitchers by not facing them.

Chance of contributing in 2018: High

Max Moroff (No. 38): Moroff always had very high walk and strikeout totals due to his habit of getting into deep counts, but last year he spent the first six weeks battling for the HR lead in the International League. He ultimately spent the majority of the season in the majors and hit very well the last two months after a painfully bad start. Back in 2014, the Pirates moved Moroff from short to second in deference to Adam Frazier, but now they seem to like Moroff better in the middle infield. With Frazier, Rodriguez and Freese around, he’s going to have trouble winning a job in the majors out of camp, but should appear at some point.

Chance of contributing in 2018: High

Kevin Newman (No. 71): Coming off a mildly disappointing 2017, Newman could use a bounceback season. He did hit .283 over the last two months after a promotion to AAA, but he has only modest power and pitchers won’t be afraid to throw him strikes, so he’s at risk of being the sort of hitter who produces empty batting averages. With Jordy Mercer due to become a free agent after the season, Newman is the current favorite to take over the position in Pittsburgh in 2019. He has to go on the 40-man roster after this season anyway, so it’d behoove the Pirates to get him some time in the majors at some point.

Chance of contributing in 2018: High

Jose Osuna (No. 64): Osuna spent nearly all of last year in the majors and was one of the Pirates’ better power hitters, but that’s an extremely low bar. Unfortunately, he largely tanked in the second half, finishing with an unacceptable .269 OBP. He’s solid defensively at first and had a big platoon split, so he could be a lefty-mashing backup there, but Freese is in his way, too. He has a good arm but his range is so poor that he doesn’t need to be in the outfield. He also has Daniel Nava to worry about; the Pirates seem to be reverting to their obsession with aging bench players, a habit that’s been a disaster in every season except 2016. If Osuna doesn’t make the opening day roster, though, he should appear at some point. Nava is even more fragile than Gregory Polanco.

Chance of contributing in 2018: High

Pablo Reyes (No. 81): Reyes has been the same player for the Pirates at level after level: He hits for a decent average, makes contact, gets on base and even has a little power. He also runs well, has good range at second, can play center adequately and can fake it at short. It’s certainly plausible that he could see some time in the majors at some point in the future, although probably not in 2018. I hope he gets a shot at AAA this year, but the infield looks crowded there and, with Mitchell Tolman now suspended, the Pirates could send Reyes back to Altoona to play second initially.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Cole Tucker (No. 88): Tucker hit very well for about two months in 2017, some at Bradenton and some at Altoona. The rest of the time he was either hurt or getting acclimated to new levels. He played well in the field, too, and may have a higher ceiling than Newman. For now, he figures to return to Altoona and try to put together a whole, good season.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Erich Weiss (No. 62): Weiss is probably going to have to deal with a logjam of infielders at Indianapolis for the second year in a row. He didn’t play much early last year, but was one of Indy’s best hitters over the last two-thirds of the season. He does everything reasonably well on offense, plus he’s a left-handed hitting infielder. He can play the three bases, but not short, which is a handicap. He’s also 26 now. It’d probably take a bunch of injuries for him to get a callup.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Eric Wood (No. 61): After a mini-breakout in 2016, Wood took a mini-backward step in 2017. He had 16 HRs but just a 238/311/438 batting line. He also saw a big jump in his K rate, so it’s likely he was struggling with AAA breaking balls. Like Weiss, he has some ability, but will probably need a lot of other guys to have a lot of bad luck in order to get called up.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low