On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced non-roster invitees to spring training
The start of spring training is still over two months away. However, on Thursday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates announced six non-roster invitees to spring training. These six players are catcher Tyler Heineman, right-handed pitchers Tyler Chatwood and Nathan Webb, and left-handed pitchers Daniel Zamora, Rob Zastryzny, and Angel Perdomo.
Heineman is the most likely of these six players to crack the team's Opening Day roster. Last season, the switch-hitting catcher played in 52 games while accumulating 158 plate appearances with the Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays. Between the two teams, Heineman hit for a .217/.276/.268 slash line with a 56 OPS+. He was a plus defender with +5 Defensive Runs Saved and was also a positive pitch framer.
Now back with the Pittsburgh Pirates after signing a minor league contract, Heineman is the frontrunner to serve as the backup catcher to free agent addition Austin Hedges. To be honest, it would be a surprise if Heineman isn't the backup catcher.
Chatwood and Webb could be intriguing potential bullpen arms to watch in the spring. The Pirates signed Chatwood to a minor league deal earlier this week. The 11-year MLB veteran posted a 5.63 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 14.5% walk rate, and a 26.2% strikeout rate in 32 innings pitched with the Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants last season. It would not be a surprise to see him make the team's Opening Day bullpen.
The hard-throwing Webb has never pitched in the majors, but he has the stuff to develop into a successful MLB reliever. The 25-year-old Webb struggled in the minors last season allowing 37 earned runs while walking 27 batters in 33.1 innings pitched in the Kansas City minor league system. He did, however, rack up 39 strikeouts, allowed just five home runs and was burnt by an astronomically high .438 batting average on balls in play.
Webb will most likely start the season in the bullpen at Triple-A Indianapolis, but he certianly could be a factor in the Pirate bullpen at some point during the season. Zamora, Zastryzny, and Perdomo will all likely join Webb in the Indy bullpen to start the season. However, with the Pirate bullpen in need of left-handed pitching help if Rule 5 Draft addition Jose Hernandez struggles in the spring that could open the door for one of these three.
With how much time is left until pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton and spring training begins, it is likely that the Pittsburgh Pirates will still add a few more minor league free agents who will be invited to spring training. When it gets closer to spring training the team will also announce prospects who are not currently on the 40-man roster that are going to be invited to major league camp.