The competition for both the starting center field and fourth outfield job for the Pittsburgh Pirates is starting to heat up
When Spring Training began last month the Pittsburgh Pirates were facing multiple position battles. The two biggest, however, were shortstop and center field. With less than three weeks to go until Opening Day the battles for both center field and the team’s fourth outfielder position are starting to heat up.
Entering Spring Training the battle for the center field job was between Anthony Alford, minor league free agent signing Brian Goodwin and prospect Jared Oliva. Early in Spring Training, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded for Dustin Fowler adding him to the mix. This created a situation of four players competing for two spots.
Prior to Fowler being added, Alford and Goodwin appeared to be locks for the Opening Day roster. This was due to Oliva having minor league options remaining while neither Alford nor Goodwin did. However, the addition of Fowler threw a wrench in these plans.
When the Oakland A’s designated Fowler for assignment the Pittsburgh Pirates would have had first crack at him on the waiver wire. The fact the Pirates felt the need to swing a trade with Oakland to make sure they landed Fowler indicates that Ben Cherington, Derek Shelton and company felt compelled to make sure they land Fowler and likely have a plan for him on the Major League roster.
Due to this, Fowler seems like a safe bet to crack the Opening Day roster. In Grapefruit League play, Fowler is 2-for-10 with a double, two walks, a stolen base and he has been a menace on the bases with his speed. This seems to be plenty good enough results to land him an Opening Day roster spot as well.
With Oliva, despite his strong performance this spring, unlikely to make the Opening Day roster due to having options, that leaves Alford and Goodwin competing for the final outfield spot. Right now, Alford appears to have a leg up in that competition.
Alford is a right-handed hitter which can compliment Fowler who is a left-handed hitter. Additionally, Alford has impressed on the field this spring. The former top 100 prospect is 5-for-12 with two home runs, a double and a walk. He has also played excellent defense in center field.
This spring Goodwin has struggled. The veteran outfielder is 2-for-14 with a grand slam, two walks and seven strikeouts. Of the three outfielders competing for the two remaining outfield spots with the Pittsburgh Pirates Goodwin has been performed to the lowest level this spring.
Also, both Alford and Fowler are players with a lot of untapped potential. As a MLB veteran teams know what kind of player Goodwin is at this point, Alford and Fowler are both former top 100 prospects who have yet to get an extended look at the Major League level.
The Pittsburgh Pirates could be sitting on a pair of diamonds in the rough in Alford and Fowler. This combined with their performances so far this spring and the Pirates building for the future should lead to them both making the Opening Day roster. Either way, the outfield competition is heating up for the Pirates.