Predicting The Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day Roster

Mar 19, 2017; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) prior to the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) prior to the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Five spots down, two to go

Five of the seven spots in the Pirate bullpen are set in stone. The five pitchers guaranteed spots in the bullpen are Antonio Bastardo, Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, and Tony Watson.

As for the other two spots, it is a competition between three pitchers. A.J. Schugel, Tyler Webb, and Wade LeBlanc are these three pitchers. Schugel is a right-handed pitcher, while Webb and LeBlanc are both southpaws.

Of the five relievers currently locked into the bullpen, three (Antonio Bastardo, Felipe Rivero, and Tony Watson) are left-handed pitchers. It is highly unlikely that the Pirates take five left-handed relievers north. For this reason, it is unlikely that both Tyler Webb and Wade LeBlanc make the team.

The two relievers I expect to earn these final two bullpen spots are A.J. Schugel and Wade LeBlanc. When it comes to Schugel, him making the team is a no-brainer. In 2016 Schugel posted very strong numbers (3.19 FIP, 7.96 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, 0.69 HR/9) in 52 innings pitched for the Pirates.

Additionally, Schugel’s changeup is one of the best in baseball. This makes his changeup a great weapon.

As for LeBlanc, he and Webb are very similar pitchers. Both are left-handed pitchers, both have average stuff, and both would be the long man in the Pirate bullpen. Ultimately, I expect LeBlanc’s MLB experience to win out and get him the final bullpen spot.

Since he is a Rule 5 Draft selection, if he does not make the Opening Day roster the Pirates will have to return Tyler Webb to the New York Yankees. However, if he does not make the team, one should expect them to try and work out a trade with the Bronx Bombers to keep Webb in the organization. Webb would be a strong bullpen depth piece to have at Triple-A.