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Pirates spring training infielders: Who are these guys?

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Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

With most positions, you’ll notice the Pirates haven’t brought in many minor league free agents, certainly not compared to a few years ago. Many of the non-roster invitees are prospects. This front office has a knack for developing good AAA players. It’s the next part that eludes them.

Anyway, I won’t go into the guys who are locks to be in the majors: Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, Kevin Newman, Erik Gonzalez, Colin Moran and Jung-Ho Kang.

Previously:

Catchers

Kevin Kramer (no. 44): Kramer is slated to head back to AAA to work on the contact issues that plagued him during his September callup. He arguably has the most offensive upside of any of the Pirates’ upper level middle infielders. It might help his prospects if he and Adam Frazier didn’t both hit left-handed, or if Kramer was a more credible candidate to play short.

Chance of contributing in 2019: Moderate

Jose Osuna (36): It hasn’t been a good winter for Osuna, despite a strong winter ball campaign. Nearly every non-pitcher move the Pirates have made has probably reduced his chances of making the team out of camp. Jung-Ho Kang, Lonnie Chisenhall, Patrick Kivlehan, J.B. Shuck and now Melky Cabrera could all get in Osuna’s way, although he still should get a shot at some point.

Chance of contributing in 2019: High

Pablo Reyes (15): Reyes is exactly the sort of utility player you wish the Pirates had had for years, so they wouldn’t have been wasting playing time on guys like John McDonald and Michael Martinez. Reyes actually does nearly everything reasonably well, as opposed to just being a guy who can stand at a lot of different positions. Logically, he should be on the team when the season starts, but there’s always the risk that he’ll get hurdled by the presence of excessive veteran beardliness.

Chance of contributing in 2019: High

Will Craig (75): In 2018, Craig more than doubled his HR total from the previous year and a half combined. His OPS, though, increased just from .744 to .769, as he sacrificed contact and patience for power. He had huge platoon splits in 2016-17, but hit RHPs slightly better than LHPs in 2018, so it’s not clear his path forward could come as a lefty-masher. Basically, Craig needs to go to AAA and continue to improve.

Chance of contributing in 2019: Low

Nick Franklin (67): The one minor league free agent listed here, Franklin’s strong hitting numbers in AAA never translated to the majors. He’s hit reasonably well at times in the big leagues, but for whatever reason, teams seem to give up on him quickly. One problem for him may be the fact that he seems to be viewed strictly as a second baseman, at least as far as playing in the middle infield is concerned, and not as a shortstop, which was his position in the minors. Absent injuries, it’s hard to see him getting past Reyes and Kramer.

Chance of contributing in 2019: Low

Ke’Bryan Hayes (77): Unless Colin Moran becomes the guy the Pirates hoped when they acquired him, Hayes figures to be the Pirates’ future at third base. He’s potentially an elite defender and also a good baserunner, which will add value to make up for the possibility that he may not hit for more than middling power. He has a good chance of getting a September callup, but barring injuries isn’t likely to appear in Pittsburgh before then.

Chance of contributing in 2019: Moderate

Cole Tucker (3): Tucker is the other half of the presumptive, future left side of the Pirates’ infield. He’s not quite the prospect Hayes is, as he’s not quite as good defensively and is coming off a season in which a rough first half left him with subpar numbers at the plate. It does seem, though, that the Pirates are higher on Tucker than on Kevin Newman. As far as reaching Pittsburgh in 2019 is concerned, Tucker’s situation is the same as Hayes’.

Chance of contributing in 2019: Moderate