Earlier this week, ESPN’s David Schoenfield pondered about how teams may use the newly added 26th roster spot.
He concluded five different possibilities: the professional pinch hitter, the speedy pinch runner/defensive specialist, an extra platoon bat, a two-way player, and a third catcher. Keep in mind that teams cannot have more than 13 pitchers. How might the Pirates use the extra roster spot?
Professional pinch hitter
Jose Osuna excelled as a pinch hitter last season hitting .345/.345/.966 with five home runs and three doubles in 30 plate appearances. He will more than likely make the team out of Spring Training regardless of roster size. If the Pirates want an extra bat with some thump when the season starts, Will Craig could be another potential option.
Speedy pinch runner/defensive specialist
Jarrod Dyson and Guillermo Heredia were both signed to major league contracts and will likely see regular playing time in 2020. Other than those two, the Pirates do not really have any other players that could fill the speedy pinch running role.
Extra platoon bat
When looking that the Pirates’ starting lineup, there’s really only two positions where a platoon would be necessary, third base and right field. Once again, Osuna will most likely be the right-handed hitter against lefties in replace of Colin Moran or Gregory Polanco. When Ke’Bryan Hayes reaches the big leagues at some point this season, he will take over full time at third base.
Unfortunately, Pirate fans were robbed of seeing the conclusion of the JB Shuck experiment. He signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals. The only player on the Pirates right now with any two-way potential is Steven Brault. That said, I don’t think the Pirates plan to give him reps in the outfield any time soon.
This is the route I think the Pirates will go. Right now, Jacob Stalling and Luke Maile are on the active roster. Five other catchers received non-roster invites: Jason Delay, Christian Kelley, John Ryan Murphy, Arden Pabst, and Andrew Susac. I think there’s a reason for that.
In my mind, a third catcher would make the most sense. The added catcher flexibility would allow for a wider range of substitution possibilities late in games. For example, Jacob Stallings, who isn’t exactly a thrasher at the plate, could be pinch hit/run if needed.
The Pirates don’t have many platoons. They already have one of the league’s best pinch hitters (at least last year they did). There is not any Billy Hamilton-type speed guys in the organization. They don’t have a two-way player. It may not be flashy, but a third catcher is the way to go.