PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – With one week left in Florida, five quick impressions of Pirates camp.
1. World Baseball Classic shaking up the rosters. While it’s usually not an opening day lineup during Spring Training games, not having Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco for an extended time this Spring is strange. If Polanco can pull over his WBC stats into the start of the season, benefit. If Marte’s ankle lingers, issue.
2. Young guys get shot. The WBC has allowed Jose Osuna to get extended time and he leads the team in homers and RBI. Austin Meadows played 15 games in center and hit safely in 13 of those. Infielder Gift Ngoepe has also benefited from more playing time and is hitting .400. The increased time provided each with confidence, which should make for better depth when injuries happen.
3. Glasnow puts foot down. Nothing official with the fifth spot in the rotation and each with two more starts, but Tyler Glasnow had his ‘ah-ha’ moment Saturday against the Phillies and would appear to have separated himself from Drew Hutchison, Trevor Williams and Steven Brault. Glasnow has the best stuff, Hutchison has the most experience, Williams is a former highly thought of Marlins prospect and Brault is the only lefty and had pitched well except for one inning on Saturday.
4. Frazier forcing way into lineup. Left-hitting Adam Frazier ended up in 66 games with the Bucs last year, hitting .301 even though he was 4 for his last 32. Frazier was frustrated with that slump and also with his defensive play, which seems to have improved this Spring. Playing over 70 innings, Frazier doesn’t have an error while playing a variety of positions. How creative can the Pirates be in getting Frazier’s bat in there?
5. Can Bell handle first? Everyone including GM Neal Huntington says Josh Bell is working hard at first, but will he be able to handle the position on a daily basis? Kevin Young and infield coach Joey Cora continue to work with the former division 1 football prospect, as Bell has only made one error in 41 chances, but still doesn’t look comfortable or fluid there. If not Bell, than who? David Freese has only played one game there this Spring and with Jung-Ho Kang out until who knows when, you would expect Freese at third. Unless you play Frazier at second, Harrison at third and move Freese to first or John Jaso could play first or Phil Gosselin, or the extreme outside chance of Osuna.
There are other questions as well, like who bats cleanup without Kang (likely Polanco), how does the lineup look, how many lefties are in the bullpen, will Tony Watson be a good closer, can Jared Hughes find his groove? Still plenty of storylines with a dozen days until Opening Day.