We’re a little more than halfway through spring training and there’s not a lot of doubt about the Pirates’ opening day roster. Elias Diaz’ illness pretty much guarantees Jacob Stallings will be on it. Melky Cabrera was probably always close to a lock for a spot, and Pablo Reyes certainly should be. With Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman at short, and Colin Moran and Jung-ho Kang at third, that pretty much settles the position players. And Neal Huntington has near-guaranteed Jordan Lyles the fifth starter spot, unless his injury today is a bigger deal than he’s saying.
Huntington on the fifth-starter job: "He [Lyles] came in with the inside track and he’s done nothing to lose that, and the other two [Kingham and Brault] haven’t done anything to take it away from him."— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) March 12, 2019
That leaves the bullpen. With Felipe Vázquez, Kyle Crick, Keone Kela and Richard Rodriguez set, and Nick Kingham out of options and probably out of the rotation, there are two spots open. What follows is a totally subjective, unscientific attempt to rate the chances of the various candidates (I didn’t even try to make it all add up to 200%).
Jake Barrett - 30%
Steven Brault - 25%
Nick Burdi - 90%
Michael Feliz - 10%
Dovydas Neverauskas - <10%
Francisco Liriano - 75%
Tyler Lyons - 10%
Brandon Maurer - <10%
Burdi not only has the advantage of being a Rule 5 guy, he’s actually outpitched everybody else. Coming into spring training, I thought Burdi’s biggest competition would be Maurer, but knee problems have probably consigned him to AAA to open the season, assuming he doesn’t opt out of his minor league deal. Lyons also seemed to start off with a good shot, but he’s been the worst pitcher in camp apart from Mitch Keller. Lyons’ problems figure to benefit Liriano and Brault. The former needs help after a control meltdown the other day. Brault has an option left and, at least to me, seemed close to a lock to open in AAA as a starter, but more wildness from Liriano could open the door. The big wild card is Barrett, who hasn’t pitched since the Pirates acquired him. I don’t know what to think of his chances, but he does have an option left.