Pittsburgh Pirates invite 12 players to Spring Training, including top prospects

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Monday they have signed twelve players to minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training. While there are some familiar names, there are also some guys who will be joining the organization from other teams. Here’s a quick rundown on the twelve invitees:

  1. Steven Brault – The Pirates’ #24 prospect entering 2015, Brault really broke out in Double A last season. He reached a career high with 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings and started to develop better control of his pitches. I don’t know if he’s ready for the majors yet, but he doesn’t give up home runs or walks and as a lefty, he’ll get a shot. I mentioned here that I thought we could see him make a spot start sometime in 2016.
  2. Juan Diaz – An infielder who has been with the Indians and last season, the Marlins. Diaz saw most of his time at third base last season, where he was decent, but he has been an even better shortstop throughout his career. He is strictly a defensive talent however, as Diaz has posted a .257 batting average with 67 home runs over 10 minor league seasons.
  3. Ed Easley – One of the many catchers needed to get through spring training, Easley has spent 9 seasons in the farm systems of the Diamondbacks and Cardinals. He finally reached the majors in 2015 with St. Louis but is yet to record a hit after 7 plate appearances. The former 1st round pick had a rough season after batting .334 and .296 in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, he hit just .251 with 4 home runs and his slugging percentage dropped 136 points. Defensively, he’s an average catcher who isn’t great at stopping the run game but if he hits well, he may have a shot as the back up.
  4. Adam Frazier – This guy has been in the Pirates’ system since 2013 and had a great season with the bat this year. Primarily a shortstop, Frazier also saw some time in centerfield for Double-A Altoona because of how well he hit. His rookie season was very good and following a less impressive 2014, Frazier posted a slash of .324/.384/.416 in 2015 – very good numbers for a middle infielder. He played in the Arizona Fall League recently and continued to rake; he batted .321 and 4 of his 9 hits were for extra bases. He’s not a great defensive short stop but because he can hit and hardly ever strikes out, he’ll get a look.
  5. Jim Fuller – A journey man relief pitcher who has been in the game since 2008. Originally drafted by the Mets, spent 2014 with the Twins and then 2015 in the Athletics’ farm system. Nothing really sticks out about this guy but it may be worth noting, his walk numbers have come down in recent seasons and he has struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings over the 400+ professional innings he’s thrown. Fuller may wind up a sneaky find for the Pirates if he can strike out major league batters at that clip.
  6. Dan Gamache – Another infielder that came up through the Pittsburgh system, Gamache has made the conversion from second to third base after a broken foot in 2014. He has really struggled in the field since the switch but he’s become a much better hitter in Double A. In the first 74 games of 2015, he batted .335 for Altoona and then got the call up to Triple-A. Despite only hitting 23 home runs in 5 seasons, Gamache won the Home Run Derby last season but like Frazier, he’ll need his glove to catch up to his bat to have a chance in the majors.
  7. Chad Kuhl – Kuhl was the Pirates’ #17 prospect heading into 2015 and he continued to improve in his first season in Double-A. After posting an 11-5 record in 2015, Kuhl now has a career record of 27-14 and his ERA dropped nearly a run to 2.48. He doesn’t rack up the strikeouts – just 5.8 per nine innings for his career – but there are other things he does well. Kuhl keeps the ball in the park and it looks like he is a legit prospect. I expect him to perform well in Spring Training but eventually end up in Triple-A Indianapolis.
  8. Kelvin Marte – Marte is a southpaw who has spent 9 seasons with the San Francisco Giants but has never gained any steam in their farm system. When he debuted in the minors, Marte was much more of a strikeout pitcher than he is now, but in 2015 he allowed the lowest opponent batting average since 2008, his first season as a pro. Perhaps that means he found something to build on in 2016 and can be of use in the Pirates’ bullpen.
  9. Reese McGuire – Yet another backstop for Spring Training but McGuire is the Pirates’ #6 overall prospect and top catching prospect. McGuire has a real chance to be the starting catcher in 2017 and this will be his first chance to work with the major league staff. After batting .330 in the Gulf Coast League in 2013, McGuire has struggled the past two seasons, batting .262 and .254 respectively. McGuire still has plenty of time to develop his offensive game but this will give the team a chance to see where he stands currently.
  10. Antoan Richardson – An outfielder who was just signed by the Pirates last month. He has spent time in the major leagues but pretty much all he has to offer is his speed. I wrote more about him here.
  11. Jacob Stallings – Another catcher and probably the third best of the bunch. Stallings is less of a run-stopper than Easley or McGuire and is certainly not the hitter either of them are. He’s seen his Isolated Power and On-Base Percentage drop in each of the past three seasons and in general, it looks like Stallings is trending in the wrong direction. The team will use his body and barring a breakout season, I don’t expect to hear from Stallings again after March.
  12. Trevor Williams – I just wrote about this guy. The Pirates’ #20 prospect who was just acquired in October from the Marlins could end up being a premier starter in a few years. Read more here.

Most of these guys will not see time with the Pirates in 2016 but it’s nice to see the team give guys like McGuire and Kuhl their first shot at Major League competition.