With the regular season starting up next Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made some roster decisions both in terms of minor league players and the team’s starting lineup.
Spring training is winding down, with the club only having 10 games (one is split squad) remaining before the regular season starts up on the 28th. The first round of moves were the minor league players getting optioned and reassigned to minor league camp, with Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic listing the players:
Ke’Bryan Hayes has had a solid spring training and has really stood out with the bat. Geoff Hartlieb continues to look like a potential relief option in Pittsburgh with his track record of high groundball rates and upper 90s fastball. After appearing in the Arizona Fall League this past October, the right-hander will tossed 8.2 innings this spring. Other prospects reassigned were Will Craig and Bryan Reynolds, two of the team’s top 20 prospects.
Kevin Kramer is the only player on the 40-man, and in Triple-A Indianapolis this season he’ll be getting some time in the outfield according to Biertempfel. The former UCLA Bruin projects to hit .263/.312/.451 and provide 0.5 WARP in 145 plate appearances according to PECOTA. The left-handed bat seems like the first player that will be recalled due to an injury, and getting him more flexibility could be beneficial in Kramer receiving playing time at the Major League level.
The other news of the day is that Erik Gonzalez and Jung Ho Kang won their positional battles. Gonzalez has hit .233/.303/.367 in 30 at bats this spring and Kang has hit .179/.281/.714 with five home runs and 13 strikeouts in 28 at bats. PECOTA projects Gonzalez at a .236/.275/.372 slash and 0.0 WARP in 418 plate appearances and Kang for .233/.312/.409 and 1.1 WARP in 333 plate appearances.
Kevin Newman hit .276/.290/.448 in 29 at bats and Colin Moran hit .214/.303/.357 in 28 at bats this spring. Newman will backup Gonzalez at short and Frazier at second, while Moran will back up Kang and also see time at first base according to Biertempfel. PECOTA projects Newman at .238/.285/.344 and 0.1 WARP in 378 plate appearances and Moran for a .246/.312/.399 and 0.4 WARP in 356 plate appearances.
Part of the reason for the decision is the defense. Kang projects at 3.6 fielding runs above average and Gonzalez 0.6 compared to Moran’s -0.6 and Newman’s -0.8. For a team that doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts on the mound, having the best defense out there is important, especially with Adam Frazier at a projected -1.2 runs and Josh Bell a projected -5.7 runs. The team isn’t done with the roster moves yet, as the five starter and bullpen are still in competition.
*All numbers from Baseball Prospectus