This is where things start to get a little interesting. As we sift through the infield, we will go left to right.
Cherington has said third base will be an opening competition this spring, which makes sense. Incumbent Colin Moran is coming off a .277/.322/.429 season in which he posted a below league average 94 wRC+. He was one of the worst defensive third baseman in baseball, and his overall fWAR was just 0.1. In his career, Moran owns a 0.7 fWAR and a .274/.328/.417 slash line to go with a 97 wRC+ in 1,005 plate appearances. Combine this with his woeful defense at third base, and it is easy to see why Cherington would want to go a different direction at third base. The problem is, the team did not add anyone else to compete at third base.
While Pirate fans would love to see top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes grab the third base job by the horns and run with it this spring, this is not going to happen. In addition to service time and Super 2, Hayes is simply not yet ready offensively and he needs more seasoning at the Triple-A level. Yes, Jose Osuna and Erik Gonzalez could compete with Moran at third base, but it looks like third base will be Moran’s until Hayes arrives at some point in 2020.
The middle of the infield could be set in stone, or it could go a few different ways. That all hinges on Adam Frazier.
Throughout the off-season Frazier has been the center of trade rumors. Yesterday, veteran second baseman Jason Kipnis signed with the Chicago Cubs and it was reported that the Oakland A’s were interested in Kipnis before he signed with the Cubs. The A’s had been connected to Frazier this off-season, could this lead to the A’s revisiting those trade talks?
If Frazier is not traded he will start at second base with Kevin Newman at shortstop. If Frazier is traded, then Newman slides to second base and Cole Tucker is the starting shortstop. Also, if Frazier is not traded, that likely pushes Tucker to Triple-A to start the season as he is better served playing every day at Triple-A than being a bench player at the MLB level.
First base…. well, do we really need details here? It’s Josh Bell‘s job.
As for the bench, Gonzalez seems like a safe bet to make the roster with his ability to play every position except catcher. The recently signed JT Riddle, who can play shortstop or center field, will likely be on the opening day roster as well. That leaves one more bench spot which will be between Osuna and Will Craig. Both players can play first base and the corner outfield spots, Osuna, however, can also play the hot corner.
Prediction: Colin Moran, Kevin Newman, Adam Frazier, Josh Bell, Erik Gonzalez, JT Riddle, Jose Osuna