I was going to do two separate posts here for the infield and outfield, but I think that guys like Delwyn Young and Steve Pearce make the two decisions more or less inextricable. Let’s start with the starters and go from there. Around the horn we’ve got:
- Ryan Doumit, C
- Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, or Jeff Clement, 1B
- Akinori Iwamura, 2B
- Andy LaRoche, 3B
- Bobby Crosby or Ronny Cedeno, SS
- Lastings Milledge, LF
- Andrew McCutchen, CF
- Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, Brandon Moss, or Ryan Church, RF
That leaves us with, essentially, two decisions to make. The shortstop decision is the sort of thing that only Pirate fans worry about. Bobby Crosby or Ronny Cedeno? Would you rather drop an anvil on your foot or smash your fingers with a hammer? I do think that both guys are assured roster spots, if only because the team needs two guys capable of playing shortstop and Ramon Vasquez isn’t.
The tougher decision rotates around first base and right field. Garrett Jones will start in one of the two positions, so the question here is whether Clement shows he can hack it at first base during camp. I think he’s got a long leash here; everyone knows what Moss, Pearce, and Church are capable of and Clement is the one semi-unknown here. He’s been working hard at learning the position and he honestly didn’t look all that uncomfortable there when I saw him at first base for Indianapolis in Durham last year.
So we’re locking in eight starters here counting Clement, and I’ll add the backup shortstop (whoever that is), Jason Jaramillo as the backup catcher, and Ryan Church because I don’t see any way he doesn’t make the club. Assuming the Pirates carry 12 pitchers (and I think they will), that leaves only two roster spots to really think about. Without sounding too much like a standardized test, I think that one will be able to play outfield and one will be able to play infield, but that doesn’t mean that both players won’t be able to play both.
Meaning that of the options for this final spot, we’ve got dedicated infielders (Vasquez), dedicated outfielders (Brandon Moss, Brandon Jones, Jonathan Van Every, John Raynor, Brian Myrow), and guys that can at least allegedly play both infield and outfield (Steve Pearce and Delwyn Young). With Church more or less assured a spot, I think that hurts the chances of Jones, Moss, Van Every, and Myrow. One thing that I think the bench could definitely use is a righty to platoon with Clement and Jones, and Pearce is the obvious choice for that kind of thing. If Pearce has worn out his welcome (certainly possible) and the Pirates’ staff is high on Raynor (also possible given that the team did pick him in the Rule 5 draft) then maybe Raynor is the choice. He doesn’t hit for a ton of power, but he’d be a solid defensive replacement late in games (something Pearce wouldn’t be) and while his hitting is questionable, at this point so is Pearce’s (at least at the big league level).
The last spot on the roster should go to someone capable of playing infield. That more or less narrows our list down to Delwyn Young and Ramon Vasquez. Young isn’t really capable of playing anywhere but second base or outfield and he’s not great at second, but Vasquez isn’t really great anywhere. And while I’m far from sold on Young’s bat, even as a second baseman, it’s pretty clear that Vasquez is past the point in his career in which he’s a good hitter. This might sound a little harsh, but the most important thing that Vasquez does for the Pirates in 2010 is drive their payroll up a bit, and he does that whether or not he makes the team.
Another thing to consider is this: A bench with Ramon Vasquez, Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby, Jason Jaramillo, and John Raynor is not a very impressive bench at all. Since Church, Crosby, and Jaramillo are likely locks, it seems like a good bet that either Pearce or Young will crack the bench simply because they’ve gotta put some kind of pinch hitting threat beyond Church (who’s still kind of up in the air in that aspect) on the bench. The Brandons (Moss and Jones) and the NRIs (Myrow and Van Every) seem likely to be the odd men out here after the Church signing, though it’s probably possible for them to play onto the team with a big showing in camp.