Bradenton officially becomes Pittsburgh South this week as the Pirates arrive for spring training. There have been ups and downs during the winter and there are still moves that might be made. But let’s take a look at key players to watch this spring.
Jung-ho Kang, 3B – Obviously, the Pirates would love to see Kang in the opening day lineup, and that looked like a long shot back in the fall after he had surgery to repair a broken leg. Early predictions were early 2016, but many people thought that meant June at the earliest.
Instead, the rehab has progressed faster than expected and now Kang could be ready fo April and dare we say it, opening day.
After a stellar rookie season, the Pirates will count Kang to be a major contributor to the offense. If he can replace Neil Walker’s numbers, it will be a win for the Bucs. Josh Harrison, who is Walker’s replacement at 2nd base, is going to have to put up decent numbers at the plate as well, but Kang has a chance to be one of the best hitters in the Pirates lineup.
Jameson Taillon, RHP – Coming off Tommy John surgery in 2014 and hernia surgery in 2015, Taillon needs to do one thing to get him on track to Pittsburgh.
The Pirates No. 1 pick in 2010 has not pitched in a real game since 2013 and there is always the concern about both surgeries. No doubt, the Pirates need another quality arm in the starting rotation and the front office feels Taillon and Tyler Glasnow can possibly contribute in the second half of the season. Glasnow has been healthy so it will be about the transition from the minors to the majors and all of his peripherals say he should be successful.
Taillon needs to prove he can stay on the mound and reach the potential that many expect him to reach. The Pirates will keep an eye on him from a health and stuff standpoint and will hope both end up not being an issue moving forward.
They both are learning to play first.
And spring training is perfect for learning and perfecting different skill sets.
Jaso comes to Pittsburgh as a converted catcher. He can definitely hit righty pitching and fits well in the Pirates platoon at first with right-handed slugger Michael Morse. But the Pirates suffered through 2015 with The Butcher of the Bronx, Pedro Alvarez’s defense at first which eventually ended his tenure in Pittsburgh.
If Jaso can just be average defensively, it’s an upgrade at the position with the exception of the home run numbers.
Bell is a converted outfielder and the future at the position. He could be on the big league roster as early as June if the bat continues to shine in the Indianapolis, but the defense could also hold him back.
If you remember, Bell was a 3-sport star coming out of high school so he is very athletic which makes you feel good about him adjusting to the position.