Roster taking shape
So, we are a good bit into Spring Training, the initial sets of cuts have happened, and many of the pictures are looking much clearer. Unfortunately, a couple of trades that we hoped would go down haven’t (yet), but a few of the early predictions do seem to be coming true.
The Bench: Before Church was signed, my prediction for the bench looked like: Young, Jaramillo, Crosby, Raynor and Pearce. We had enough faith in NH even back then to know that Vazquez wouldn’t be kept on while relegating more deserving players! Then, we predicted that the bench would look like Crosby, Jaramillo, Church/Moss, Raynor, Vazquez/Young/Pearce. Young has had a good spring, perhaps aided by the winds, but appears to be a lock now. Crosby too had a good showing, and I m guessing he’s close to Cedeno in the race for the starting job, and we’ll have to see how this plays out. To start with, I expect Crosby will start on the bench, but that could change with Cedeno moving to backup if he doesn’t perform. Church is a lock. Not sure why I had Church/Moss in the previous version, I probably intended to have put Moss/Raynor there. Jaramillo is a little uncertain, although I haven’t seen much that would imply that he would be replaced, Huntington did raise the possibility somewhere of sending him to AAA while Kratz was the Major League backup. While that would be a great story for Kratz, whose journey has been documented very nicely here, that could go either way, and I don’t think it would make a big difference. But the fifth spot?
This one will be interesting: Moss/Raynor/Pearce/Walker. There is the teeniest of chances that we carry 6 while going a starter short to start the season, but we’ll ignore this possibility for now. Of the 4, Walker has been impressive in about 10ABs, but they’ll likely want to see if he can keep it up in AAA. At what position, though? We’ll see, maybe RF or 2B even, with Alvarez playing in AAA. In any case, the fact that they have options, and haven’t done anything great in AAA last year or in limited time in the majors will be enough to send Pearce and Walker down. It now comes down to Moss and Raynor.
Moss had a dreadful start to Spring Training, needing 2 ABs for his first hit, while Raynor has seemed much better at the plate although its unclear how much we should read into ST performances. The Pirates have spoken about how much they like Moss, and how his ABs have been good, with sharp liners not falling in for him. I don’t buy it, I think it’s simply a way to talk him up in the hope of finding a trade partner for him. It likely won’t happen, and I’m curious to see what they end up doing. My gut feeling says they keep Raynor and go with him. It’s true he needs AAA time, but there’s the possibility that he doesn’t need a full AAA year. So, the hope going in might be that they will manage to get him the seasoning they need right at the big league level, hoping he’ll learn fast, and cost them the year of service but that he’ll turn into an average or better big league regular in a year or two. One of the years would be the 2010 season, which is not of major consequence for the Pirates in any case.
The Pen– As we’ve said before, Dotel, Donnelly, Carrasco, Lopez, Meek are pretty much locks. Who get the remaining 2? Hanrahan, when he comes back, will get one. Till then, I’d guess that the front runners would be Jack Taschner, Jeremy Powell, and Vinnie Chulk. I’m thinking Taschner and Chulk right now, but I’d guess there is the possibility of Powell making it too at the expense of Chulk.
The Rotation– Maholm, Ohlendorf, Duke, Morton, McCutchen. Kevin Hart could get a shot, if he puts things together, but right now, he’s just an embarrassment. I hope, in all earnest, that he gets his act together, because he had a legitimate shot at being a good starter, and we are halfway certain to lose Duke/Maholm at some point in the year. Of course, Lincoln might come up then, but it never hurts to have real options to fall back on!