Pittsburgh Pirates: Final Predicted 25-Man Roster
What comes in the next six slides is my 25-man roster predictions separated into five sections, with my projected Opening Day lineup on the sixth and final slide.
See who comes out on top in some of the battles and who is on their way to Indianapolis?
Erik Bedard will open the season against the Phillies and will be followed by Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton. Then comes the issue of A.J. Burnett returning from injury and who goes to the pen.
My thought, and the thought of most, is that Kevin Correia moves into a spot starter-long relief role.
Boy, is it good to actually have depth this year. In previous years when an injury happened to a member of the starting rotation, the team would scramble and often bring up a prospect who just wasn't quite ready. Brad Lincoln debuting against Stephen Strasburg, anybody?
What follows is the Pirates' Opening-Day starting rotation:
1. Erik Bedard
2. Jeff Karstens
3. James McDonald
4. Kevin Correia
5. Charlie Morton
Neil Walker returns to his hometown Pirates to anchor the infield as the starting second baseman. Walker will also look to embrace a new role as the primary clean-up man.
Also joining Walker in the infield is free-agent signee Clint Barmes, a shortstop who played under Clint Hurdle in Colorado. They will be joined by a young Pedro Alvarez, who looks to be receiving his final chance in Pittsburgh, and a first-base platoon of Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones.
The man receiving a majority of pitches will be Rod Barajas. There has simply been little to no spring drama as to who would be starting here. It has pretty much been assumed to be Barajas' job since the spring began.
Here's a look at the Pirates' Opening-Day infield:
Catcher: Rod Barajas
First Base: Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones
Second Base: Neil Walker
Shortstop: Clint Barmes
Third Base: Pedro Alvarez
Young Pirates star Andrew McCutchen will once again lead the team at the plate and in the outfield from his post in center field.
The only outfield drama in camp was the emergence of Starling Marte and the decision to send him to Triple-A to refine his skills. It was a scene eerily reminiscent to 2009 when the same thing happened to Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen will be joined by former Yankee Jose Tabata in right field and 2011 breakout player Alex Presley in left field. Together, that trio should be able to cover some serious ground in PNC Park's spacious outfield.
Pirates' 2012 Opening-Day outfield:
Right Field: Jose Tabata
Center Field: Andrew McCutchen
Left Field: Alex Presley
As of now, only three Pirates relievers, Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli and Chris Resop, have been guaranteed roles in the bullpen. That means four, yes four, spots remain open just seven days before the Phillies come to Pittsburgh to open the season.
Who fills those spots? One has to assume a fantastically performing Juan Cruz, a non-roster invitee, will get a roster spot. That leaves four right-handed bullpen options for three spots. In addition to Cruz, one of the two lefty relievers in camp, either Daniel Moskos or Tony Watson, will be given a role as well. My guess is that Watson gets the call.
That leaves competition between Moskos, Evan Meek, non-roster invitee Ryota Igarashi, Jared Hughes, Chris Leroux and Daniel McCutchen for the final two spots.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel writes that only one bullpen position appears open with Hanrahan, Grilli, Resop, Cruz, Watson and Meek having spots in the bullpen.
That leaves Hughes, Moskos, Igarashi, Leroux and McCutchen battling for that seventh and final bullpen spot. Who wins it? My gut goes with Leroux, but McCutchen could win it because he is a good long-relief guy. Moskos could win it as well, if the Pirates decide a second lefty is needed.
The Pirates' 2012 Opening-Day bullpen:
Closer: Joel Hanrahan
Setup: Juan Cruz
7th inning: Jason Grilli
Left-handed option: Tony Watson
Middle relief: Evan Meek and Chris Resop
Long relief: Chris Leroux
Michael McKenry won over Pirates fans last summer and will be returning to PNC Park this summer. For good reason, the Pirates recently cut their other catchers, leaving McKenry, who is fantastic behind the plate and a solid backup for Rod Barajas.
I expect Josh Harrison to return in a super-utility role. He has been playing a lot of shortstop, third base and second base this spring, and has also spent time in left field. His versatility will go a long way this season.
Nate McLouth returns after two-and-a-half years in Atlanta, albeit under different conditions than when he left. When he was traded in June 2009, Pirates fans were furious at management for trading an all-star and fan favorite.
Then Andrew McCutchen showed up, and McLouth fell out of favor in Atlanta. The Pirates swooped in and picked him up, giving him a spot as the fourth outfielder.
The Pirates bench will also be occupied by either Garrett Jones or Casey McGehee. So that means four spots are taken with two remaining. Among those in competition are utility man Yamaico Navarro, Matt Hague, Nick Evans and Jake Fox,
I expect Navarro to make the team. He can play just about anywhere. I also expect Hague to make the team.He has had an extremely impressive spring.
The best thing about this Pirates bench is that all but one, McKenry, can play multiple positions. That's even true of the first base platoon-mates Jones (right field) and McGehee (third base). The Pirates will have plenty of versatility off the bench.
The Pirates' 2012 Opening-Day bench:
Catcher Michael McKenry
Utility Man: Josh Harrison
Fourth Outfielder: Nate McClouth
Platooned First Baseman: Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee
Utility Man: Yamaico Navarro
Corner Infielder: Matt Hague
2012 Starting Lineup
The Pittsburgh Pirates will take the field in 2012 with this lineup:
Pitcher: Erik Bedard
Catcher: Rod Barajas
First Baseman: Garrett Jones
Second Baseman: Neil Walker
Shortstop: Clint Barmes
Third Baseman: Pedro Alvarez
Right Fielder: Jose Tabata
Center Fielder: Andrew McCutchen
Left Fielder: Alex Presley
Expect the lineup to look something like this:
1. Jose Tabata
2. Alex Presley
3. Andrew McCutchen
4. Neil Walker
5. Garrett Jones
6. Pedro Alvarez
7. Rod Barajas
8. Clint Barmes
9. Erik Bedard
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