The first week of Spring Training has come and gone, and there are a few interesting developments within the Pirates organization.
The majority of Spring Training results are meaningless (Andrew McCutchen isn't going to bat .143 this season), but the Pirates have so many interesting, fringe-starter types on their roster that there is more information worth monitoring than usual.
The #MartePartay Begins
Starling Marte has gotten off to a very good start to Spring Training, which is exactly what Pirate fans wanted to see from a player who can be a staple in Pittsburgh for a long time.
The #MartePartay started before the Pirates' first game, as Marte hit home run in an intrasquad game and hasn't looked back since. He has five hits in 12 at-bats and his approach has generally looked sound.
It is certainly to early to suggest that he has made the leap, but Marte is already an elite defensive player and it is a very good sign if his offensive game is beginning to mature.
Bench Players Announce Themselves
Gaby Sanchez and Jordy Mercer, two players once thought to have bright major league futures, have had a very good first week.
Sanchez has reached base in seven of his 11 plate appearances and hit two home runs in a game over the weekend. He is only one year removed from two productive seasons, and if he can match his .340+ OBP from those years he will be a very useful player. Garrett Jones can also play right field, so there is playing time available if Sanchez steps up.
Mercer has reached base on six of his first 10 plate appearances and is slugging .833. The Pirates do not have a long-term solution at shortstop (aside from potentially Alen Hanson, a top prospect who will start the year in High-A), so they will be watching Mercer closely.
Erratic Pitching Continues
There have been much fewer positives for Pirate pitchers. Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon looked good in their first appearances, but several major league wild cards have struggled and often looked, well, wild.
Justin Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez both have a tremendous amount of talent, but a history of struggling to find the plate. Those struggles have reared their ugly head this spring, with the two pitchers combining to walk seven batters in 5.1 innings. Wilson at least has four strikeouts to go with his two walks.
James McDonald wasn't wild in his first start, but he struggled nonetheless, allowing three home runs. Fastball command remains an area of focus for him.
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