Projecting the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day Roster

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

What 25 players will head north to Detroit with the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 29th?

Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is nearly here. In just 9 days, the Pittsburgh Pirates will travel to Comerica Park in Detroit to begin the 2018 regular season against the Detroit Tigers.

Despite Opening Day being less than a week and a half away, the Pirates still have roster decisions to make. So, what 25 players project to make up the team’s 25-man Opening Day roster?

While some things look different than a pre-Spring Training projection would have looked like, some remain unchanged. One position group that remains the same is the one we will begin with.


Francisco Cervelli
Elias Diaz

When Spring Training began, barring injury, the team’s catchers were going to be Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz. Well, neither has gotten injured so nothing has changed.

Cervelli enters 2018 in his fourth season as the team’s starting catcher, while Diaz, who is out of minor league options, is looking to spend his first full season in the Major Leagues. As long as Cervelli stays healthy, which is often times a lot easier said than done, the Pirates will be in great shape at catcher this season.

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Josh Bell
Josh Harrison
Jordy Mercer
Colin Moran
David Freese

This is one position group that has seen some change. When Spring Training starter, Max Moroff appeared to be in great shape to make the team. However, due to no fault of his own, that appears to have changed.

Colin Moran, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, and Josh Bell will be the starting infield from left to right. Meanwhile, veteran David Freese will backup both Moran and Bell.

The infield could be a mixed bag, really good, or really bad this season. Defensively, Harrison is one of the best second basemen in the National League. However, in his career, he’s a league average hitter. Mercer is below average both offensively and defensively, and, while he has great potential, Moran is a bit of an unknown. As for Bell, if he can build upon his strong 2017 rookie campaign he can become one of the best first basemen in the National League.


Corey Dickerson
Starling Marte
Gregory Polanco
Bryce Brentz

This position group has witnessed more change from a pre-Spring Training projection than any other. This is due to the Pirates trading for both Corey Dickerson and Bryce Brentz, while also losing Daniel Nava to back surgery.

Pittsburgh Pirates
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

While this is the first time since 2008 that the Pirate outfield will not include Andrew McCutchen, it still projects to be the team’s strongest position group. Starling Marte is one of the best two-way players in the National League, and, when healthy, Gregory Polanco has that potential as well. Mix in Dickerson’s lifetime .501 slugging percentage, .351 wOBA, and 116 wRC+ and the outfield should be very productive this season. Even Brentz’s power potential is intriguing and could be a nice bench weapon.

Super Utility Players

Adam Frazier
Sean Rodriguez

Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez will both fill the super utility role for the Pirates this season. It also would not be a surprise to see Frazier serve as the team’s DH when the season starts in Detroit.

Due to his ability to lay multiple positions, Moroff could be in this discussion as well. However, he is not making the team over Frazier or Rodriguez. Jose Osuna is another player that can play multiple positions, is having a strong spring, and finds himself without a spot on the Opening Day roster.

The Starting Rotation

Jameson Taillon
Ivan Nova
Trevor Williams
Chad Kuhl
Joe Musgrove

For a few weeks it appeared there could be a change here. This was due to Joe Musgrove dealing with shoulder discomfort. However, Musgrove has since returned to action and barring any setbacks will be ready for Opening Day.

There is no position group with more questions for the Pittsburgh Pirates than their starting rotation. After Jameson Taillon, the rotation becomes a huge question mark. Ivan Nova allows too much hard contact and too many home runs, Chad Kuhl has serious control issues, Trevor Williams needs to prove his 2017 was not a fluke, and Musgrove has been better as a reliever in his career.

Now, if Kuhl can improve his control while continuing to have his increased velocity from a year ago, Williams repeats his 2017, and Musgrove finds what made him a top-100 prospect in 2016, then the entire outlook on the rotation changes. The same can be said about Tyler Glasnow finally putting it all together, or Nick Kingham making his Major League debut and running with it.

The Pirates have a lineup and bullpen capable of competing for a postseason spot, but a poor starting rotation may hold the team back.

The Bullpen

Felipe Rivero
George Kontos
Michael Feliz
Kyle Crick
Kevin Siegrist
Steven Brault
Tyler Glasnow

There may not be a deeper position group for the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates than their bullpen. Felipe Rivero is one of the most dominant relievers in the National League, and Michael Feliz has dominant stuff as well. George Kontos is a very reliable late inning man, and, if healthy, Kevin Siegrist can be a shutdown reliever as well. Mix in Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow appearing best suited for a relief role, and this bullpen should be very good.

The Pirate bullpen also has good depth. Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, and Josh Smoker would be in a lot of team’s Opening Day bullpen but appear ticketed for Triple-A to start the season. The team will also get A.J. Schugel back from shoulder issues at some point, and Triple-A will also have relief pitching prospect Tate Scioneaux who has all the tools needed to be a good Major League reliever.

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Now, the above is what I project the Opening Day roster to be for the Pittsburgh Pirates and not necessarily what I would have as my Opening Day roster. If I were the team’s manager, Max Moroff and Dovydas Neverauskas would make the team over Bryce Brentz and Kyle Crick. However, that is not what I expect Clint Hurdle to do.