Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes is the biggest name of the players leaving Pirates camp Monday morning.
Hayes is being reassigned to minor league camp, along with Will Craig, Nick Franklin, Geoff Hartlieb, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Christian Kelley, Arden Pabst, Bryan Reynolds and Brandon Waddell. Infielder Kevin Kramer was also optioned to AAA Indianapolis.
There are now 40 players in camp.
Hayes was having one of the best springs out of any Pirates hitter, slashing .346/.357/.808 with a pair of homers. The Pirates’ top position player prospect may have wowed in Bradenton, but he has never played above AA Altoona, so his chances of making the opening day roster were virtually nonexistent. If this spring is any indication, he should be knocking on the door for a major league job soon, though.
Kramer struggled at the dish this spring, slashing .207/258/.345 over 31 plate appearances. The number seven prospect in the Pirates’ farm system failed to pass Kevin Newman or Pablo Reyes on the depth chart, meaning he’ll open 2019 as Indianapolis’ starting second baseman.
Reynolds, the club’s number nine prospect, Craig, the 16th ranked, and Waddell, the 24th ranked prospect, should all receive the bulk of their playing time this year in AAA.
Franklin signed a minor league contract with the Pirates in February but failed to reach the playing field this spring.
The Battles Are Over
GM Neal Huntington announced Monday that Jung-Ho Kang has won the third base job over incumbent Colin Moran and Erik Gonzalez will be the starting shortstop over Newman.
The Pirates have decided that Jung Ho Kang will be their starting third baseman and Erik Gonzalez will be their starting shortstop, GM Neal Huntington said.— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) March 18, 2019
Kang has five hits this spring- all home runs- but has also struck out 13 times in 28 plate appearances. It certainly helped his case that Moran struggled this month, hitting .214 with a .660 OPS while making four errors in the field.
Gonzalez was acquired from Cleveland in November, giving him his first chance at consistent playing time. While Newman hit a little better and didn’t make as many errors as Gonzalez, the Pirates still have enough faith in the newcomer to give him the nod.