Alternate training sites will be returning for the start of the 2021 MLB season. How could this impact the Pittsburgh Pirates?
While the lower minor leagues were never going to start until early May, the original plan was for Triple-A baseball to still begin on April 6. Now, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the start of the Triple-A season will be pushed back at least a month. This will result in the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of Major League Baseball using alternate training sites for a second consecutive season.
Nothing has been made official but it would be a safe bet that, just like last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have their alternate training site located at Altoona. The question then becomes which players will this impact?
Odds are, a large chunk of what would have been the Opening Day roster for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians will now start the season at the alternate training sites. While Wil Crowe and Cody Ponce will compete for an Opening Day roster spot with the Pittsburgh Pirates this spring, both were likely headed to the Triple-A starting rotation. Both will now likely remaing stretched out at the alternate training site as potential backup starting pitching options for the Pirates.
Two other starting pitchers who could find themselves working at the alternate training site are prospects Miguel Yajure and Cody Bolton. Yajure has shot up prospect rankings this offseason and Bolton remains one of the top starting pitching prospects in the Pirate farm system. While neither Yajure nor Bolton were likely going to crack the Pirate starting rotation before June, both will almsot assuredly be in the roation by the end of the regular season and both are players who could be big parts of the next winning Pirate core. Due to this, the Pittsburgh Pirates will likely wany them both workign at the alternate training site.
As for the bullpen, the relievers who fail to crack the Opening Day that would normally start the season in the Triple-A bullpen will likely now start the season at the alternate training site. Look for this group to include whoever out of the group of Blake Cederlind, Clay Holmes, David Bednar, Edgar Santana, Geoff Hartlieb, Kyle Crick, Tyler Bashlor, as well as relief prospects Blake Weiman and Nick Mears, do not crack the Opening Day roster. Roansy Contreras, who was acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade, could be a player to watch as well.
As for position players a lot will hinge on who does and does crack the Opening Day roster. Cole Tucker, Jared Oliva, Phillip Evans, Michael Perez, and Rodolfo Castro will all compete for roster spots this spring. Whichever members of this group that do not crack the Opening Day roster will likely find themselves at the alternate training site.
One interesting thing to watch will be what minor league signings who do not crack Opening Day rosters choose to do. The Pittsburgh Pirates made four notable minor league signings this offseason – outfielder Brian Goodwin, reliever Chasen Shreve, corner infielder Todd Frazier, and utility man Wilmer Difo. Barring injury our a disastrous spring performance, Goodwin, Shreve and Frazier all appear to be locks to make the Opening Day roster.
Difo, however, will be in a battle to crack the Opening Day roster. If he does not make it, would he accept a minor league assignment that, to start the season, would just consist of being at the alternate training site? That will be something to watch not just with the Pittsburgh Pirates but accross all of baseball.
The lack of Triple-A baseball to start the 2021 season could impact roster decisions for the Pittsburgh Pirates. This could improve the odds of some minor league signings/non-roster invitees making the Opening Day roster due to a lack of a minor league team for them to go pitch for. Stay tuned here at Rum Bunter for roster battles throughout the spring for the Pirates.