With Spring Training approaching the horizon, a few players are opening eyes and proving that they belong on the big league roster while others are solidifying their big league acumen. Opening Day is just 10 days away, making this week pivotal for those vying for a final roster spot or an everyday role.
For starters, top outfield prospect Austin Meadows was optioned back to Triple-A camp on March 12, so round two in the International League with Indianapolis will be where he starts the season with a great chance of cracking the roster sometime this summer. Meadows left camp with a .368/.429/.737 slash line in 19 at-bats, cracking one homer and nabbing one stolen base.
The projected starting outfield trio has dazzled in Spring Training and look to carry that momentum into Opening Day for the first time without Andrew McCutchen. In left field, Corey Dickerson is 8-25 in eight games of competition while adding four RBI’s. Starling Marte, the new centerfielder, has returned to form after last years 80-game PED suspension to the tune of .424, three dingers, six RBI, and four stolen bases. An All-Star caliber outfielder at one time will have a lot to prove this year. Finally, Gregory Polanco will man right field on an everyday basis. It seems that every year we are looking for Polanco to break out, but he has been plagued by injuries throughout his young career. Through 11 games and 32 at-bats, Polanco has also blasted three bombs while hitting .344 in that span.
Prior to the McCutchen departure, many would consider Pittsburgh to have one of the best outfields in all of baseball. With two-thirds of that outfield still standing, I think Pittsburgh could surprise some people in 2018. Outfield prospects Austin Meadows and Jordan Luplow are both knocking on the door for their crack at the big league roster later this summer.
Colin Moran, who was acquired from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade, has cemented his role as the Opening Day starting third basemen. With veteran David Freese nipping at his heels, Moran has produced all Spring to the tune of a .325 batting average in 40 at-bats, the most among any of the Pirate players. Moran will be the only rookie in the Opening Day lineup in 2018 and has proved his worth thus far.
Super-utility man Adam Frazier continues to hit as he has done his whole career whether that be in the minors or majors. In 34 Spring Training at-bats, Frazier has compiled 13 hits will knocking in seven runs a popping one big fly. Frazier looks to fill the same role as last year with his ability to play third base, second base, and both corner outfield positions.
Prior to Spring Training, many believed that Frazier would assume the role as the everyday cornerstone when rumors surrounding a Josh Harrison trade surfaced. With Harrison still bitter in Pittsburgh, that door could stay open if Harrison is unable to produce or if he is shipped out of town. Kevin Kramer is another player to watch for in this race after he has popped four home runs already this spring, supplying more power than either of the aforementioned options.
In a small sample size of only 20 at-bats, likely as a precaution, catcher Francisco Cervelli has slashed .400/.520/.850 that is monumental for the Pirates overall success this season. Cervelli is arguably one of the best catchers in the National League but has been sidelined with injuries in each of the last two seasons. A healthy Cervelli is a key to the big-rig in this offense with his high contact and on-base rates.
For a team that was in shambles during the offseason, they have recovered well this Spring as they look to improve upon last years 75-87 output. After losing two of their best in McCutchen and Cole, this will be a daunting task for this Pirate team that has a combination of young talent and veteran presence in the clubhouse.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Pittsburgh Pirates article is published, fill out our email notification form.