5 Players Who Won’t Make Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Opening Day Roster
5 Pittsburgh Pirates Who Won't Make 2014 Opening Day Roster
Good news, baseball fans -- baseball starts next week! Well, Spring Training starts, but at least it's real live baseball, right? The Pittsburgh Pirates play their first Grapefruit League game on Wednesday Feb. 26 against the New York Yankees, and I couldn't be more excited. I'm sure that two weeks from now I will be tired of the Spring Training games, but for now, I'm going to enjoy it.
Winning baseball was foreign to the people of Pittsburgh for over 20 years until last season. It really is crazy to think that kids who are in college right now hadn't experienced a winning Pirates season ever until last year. However, that's all over now as the Pirates won 94 games in 2013 and advanced to Game 5 of the NLDS before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals.
For a young team like the Bucs, that playoff experience was vital. Also, finishing off a winning season was extremely important after suffering two straight near-winning seasons, only to have epic collapses in both years. Now that the Pirates know what it takes to make the postseason, it will be interesting to see what happens this year.
The roster isn't quite as good as it was at the end of 2013, with the losses of A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau, among others, but it seems that the roster is much better than it was on Opening Day last year. Jonathan Sanchez, James McDonald, Brandon Inge and John McDonald are all gone -- so that's a plus.
With Spring Training games beginning next week, a few members of the Pirates will be battling for one of the precious 25 roster spots, and only a few are truly available. A few bench spots may be available, first base, and the back end of the rotation. Here are five players who won't be able to make the Opening Day roster for the 2014 Pirates; but don't fret Pirates fans, you will likely see them at some point this season.
Acquired for Miles Mikolas, Chris McGuiness brings the Pirates some added depth at the first base position. The chances of him making the Opening Day roster are very slim; Andrew Lambo and Gaby Sanchez seem to be near-locks at first base.
It's a bit unfair, because Jameson Taillon is probably worthy of making the MLB rotation out of Spring Training; he's certainly more worthy than an Edinson Volquez or a Jeff Locke, but the Pirates are going to wait until June to promote him like they did with Gerrit Cole in 2013. He has the upside to be a front of the rotation starter, with a dominant fastball and curveball, as well as a developing changeup. Most teams would kill for a chance at a fifth starter the caliber of Taillon.
Much like Taillon, Gregory Polanco is going to have to wait until June at the earliest to be promoted. If the Pirates put either of these guys on their Opening Day roster, they will basically be losing a year of control over them. For a team like the Bucs, controlling players for as long as possible is critical. Polanco is a stud. He is a true five-tool player with outstanding on-base skills. He will immediately take over in right field for the Bucs when he gets called up and he will provide an impact offensively and defensively.
Despite being a contributor down the stretch in 2013, Tony Sanchez once again finds himself on the outside looking in heading into 2014. He was expected to be the primary backup to Russell Martin this season, but the Pirates acquired a defensive-minded catcher, Chris Stewart, from the Yankees over the offseason.
An All-Star in 2013, Locke probably won't even make the rotation in 2014. This says a lot about both Locke and the Pirates' starting pitching depth. Locke was essentially a tale of two different pitchers last season. In the first half, he had a 2.15 ERA with 3.88 BB/9, but his .197 opponents' batting average was extremely low (and lucky). In the second half, his numbers really inflated. He had a 6.12 ERA in the latter half of 2013. His 5.81 BB/9 and .298 opponents' batting average were key reasons as to why. Locke isn't as good as he was in the first half of 2013, but he certainly isn't as terrible as his second half was either.