I find it so funny how easy it is to find the Pittsburgh Pirates’ “outrage police” on Twitter and other social media platforms. While all fans of the organization have a right to be disgruntled with management and the team for the past four years of baseball, it’s easy to pick out those who make a hobby out of deriding the Buccos, castigating their efforts to build a better team, and avoiding all arguments for optimism about the team’s future. There was no easier moment to spot these “fans” when the Pirates announced a list of eleven non-roster players invited to spring training in Bradenton in a few weeks.
A list that includes James Marvel, Nick Mears, Nik Turley and Blake Weiman is sure to be a snooze fest for the casual fan, but yet, I saw complaints torching Cherington and his newly-assembled crew of baseball gurus for not inviting any “big names” to party at Pirate City and attempt to make the roster. Our community here is aware of the fact that the ceiling of excitement for NRIs is somewhere around “intriguing” while the floor resides at “meh.” Sadly, one will never convince a “They’ll always be bad!” Pirate fan of this fact. That being said, who on this list intrigues the Bucco faithful that make up this community?
Let’s start with the obvious; I really want to see what outfielder Jared Oliva can do in his first major league opportunity. As the 10th best prospect overall in the Pirates’ system as rated by FanGraphs, Oliva’s 123 wRC+ in 2019 was bolstered by a productive .352 OBP and a commendable BABIP of .347. Steamer projections expect him to regress in 2020, but he has yet to play Triple-A baseball and is consistently unlocking his offensive potential at each level.
Pitcher Luis Escobar is also an interesting name because of his history with the Buccos; seeing time on the big league roster this past season should make him a candidate to make the roster out of spring training should he wow the Pirates’ brass, considering he was designated for assignment only two months ago. A lot of Escobar’s struggles in 2019 at both the major league and Triple-A level came from a horribly high BABIP of .429 and .329 respectively. If that number deflates a bit, Escobar could have a shot.
Who are you most interested in on the list of NRIs for spring training? Let’s talk in the comments!