Who Are The Pittsburgh Pirates Bench Options For 2019?
By Marty Leap
The jacks of all trades
Clint Hurdle is entering his ninth season as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his first eight seasons one thing fans have come to learn about Hurdle is his love for players capable of playing multiple positions. This has made utility players key cogs in Hurdle’s bench each season he has been in Pittsburgh.
In 2019, the Pirates could have multiple utility men on their bench.
As Spring Training begins, Erik Gonzalez looks like the clubhouse leader to start at shortstop on Opening Day. If he wins the job, this will likely bump Kevin Newman to a utility bench role. Newman, a former top-100 prospect, has the ability to play third base, shortstop, or second base. If Newman wins the job at shortstop, then Gonzalez, who can play the same positions as well as the outfield, would be bumped to a utility role.
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There is also Pablo Reyes. For much of the offseason Reyes looked like a lock to make the team out of Spring Training. However, as we will get to in a later slide, a recent free agent signing makes things murkier for Reyes.
Reyes made a big impression last September during his first taste of MLB action. In 18 games he looked like a plus defender at third base, second base, and in right field, all while slashing .293/.349/.483 with a 127 wRC+. Reyes can play left field and shortstop as well, and, even if he starts the season at Triple-A, due to injuries and ineffective play from other players will see action at the MLB level at some point in 2019.
With his ability to play both corner infield spots, as well as both corner outfield spots Jose Osuna finds himself in the utility man discussion as well. The past two seasons Osuna has been the star of Spring Training for the Pirates, but this success has yet to translate to the MLB level. Especially as a pinch hitter, which is something we covered earlier in the offseason.
Odds are Osuna will start the season with the Indianapolis Indians. But, like Reyes, Pirate fans can expect to see Osuna in Pittsburgh at some point during the 2019 season.
Two other utility men to watch are infielders Kevin Kramer and Nick Franklin. Kramer can play third base, shortstop, and second base, and is one of the team’s top hitting prospects. After raking at Double-A and Triple-A the past two seasons, Kramer struggled immensely during his September call-up in 2018. While Kramer is unlikely to crack the Opening Day roster, he has the tools needed to be a solid contributor at the MLB level one day soon.
As for Franklin, the former top-100 prospect was signed as a minor league free agent this offseason. Due to injuries, Franklin played in just one game at the MLB level for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. Other than 2016 when Franklin posted a .270/.328/.443 slash line and a 109 wRC+ for the Tampa Bay Rays, his minor league pedigree has never translated to the MLB level. Look for the utility infielder to start the season with Triple-A Indy and to potentially earn a call-up later in the season if he is hitting well for the Indians.