By S. Samek
On Sunday, the Pirates named the 25 names picked to make up the opening day roster. While the main position battle was for the fifth starter a couple surprise names made the list.
Starting behind the plate is Francisco Cervelli. No surprise there, the only way Cervelli is out is because of injury. Hoping he remain healthy and productive this season. Backing him up is Chris Stewart. Stewart also battled an injury, but is ready to go. Though Elias Diaz a top ranked prospect is ready to make a run at the big leagues this season.
The infield features Josh Bell, a top ranked prospect making the club out of spring training at first base. Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, John Jaso and David Freese return after seeing significant playing time last season. Adam Frazier a super utility guy makes the club. Frazier can play both infield and outfield positions and saw some time in the majors last season with some success.
Phil Gosselin joins the Bucs after a trade this off-season. He should provide depth at any infield slot.
Probably the most interesting choice for a roster spot is Alan Hanson. The former top prospect has been dropping off a bit as of late. The production wasn’t where it was in years prior and attitude problems resulted in a suspension while Hanson was at Double -A. Both of these as well as, the emergence of other talented infielders started to number Hanson’s days. Though Hanson makes the club over Gift Ngoepe, a talented gloveman, that isn’t known for his bat. Hanson should get looks off the bench, but don’t be surprised if he is on a short leash with the team.
The outfield features Gold Glove Winner Starling Marte shifting to centerfield. Gregory Polanco and Andrew McCutchen flank him. The main story line is can McCutchen have a bounce back year and adjust to his new position?
The Pirates rotation is Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Tyler Glasnow. The latter three are highly rated prospects ready to emerge after seeing time in the majors last season. Nova looks to maintain the success he had after coming over from the Yankees in a trade. Cole needs to show that he can keep progressing toward being an ace.
In the bullpen, Tony Watson takes over as closer. Watson did have his struggles in the position last year, but looks to be the best arm in the pen. Felipe Rivero and Daniel Hudson should contribute strong performances as well. Trevor Williams made the roster too after being a candidate for the fifth starter. Looking for him to be a long reliever type.
The lineup looks pretty solid, though a lot will depend on bounce back years or prospects coming up and performing well. I’ll predict a .500 season and we sit out of the playoffs.