We are going to start going through the top prospects in the system, but until the Arizona Fall League makes things a little clear for us, we should think about the Pirates next year.
The Pirates will probably not re-sign Correia, Qualls, or Barajas. I would like to hope they keep Grilli, but he may leave for bigger money elsewhere. I think they will non-tender Resop if they can resign Grilli, but if they don't think they can, they keep Resop. But Charlie Morton is a non-tender guy. Other than that, I think they have to tender everyone. Karstens, they need. Sanchez could go, but he is probably worth the price, and they are short at 1B. Walker, McDonald, and Hanrahan are clear cut tenders. So is Garret Jones.
That leaves a hole at catcher, some holes in the pen, and a fifth starter.
Frankly, I don't think Tony Sanchez is ready for starting in the majors. This is a place the Pirates focus on during the off season. They need a catcher who can throw some one out, or at least make them think twice. Hitting would not hurt here either.
I don't think the Pirates will be able to sign anyone worth while as a starter. If they can great, he moves into the rotation, but if not I think the Pirates are comfortable with Kyle McPherson. Jeff Locke will start off in Triple A unless he has a great training camp. The bullpen can get a few signees.
The real question is the bench. There is a bit of a glut for the corner outfield spot, and a bunch of utility infielders to choose from. In the outfield you have Travis Snyder, Jose Tabata, and Alex Presley assuming that one corner spot goes to Starling Marte. As the utility infield you have Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Chase D'Arnaud, and Brock Holt.
So my predictions for next year's line up are:
Catcher: Free Agent and McHenry as the back up.
First Base: Garret Jones and Gaby Sanchez
Second Base: Neil Walker
Short Stop: Clint Barmes (yes, he will be back)
Third Base: Pedro Alvarez
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Jose Tabata
Bench: (McHenry and Sanchez as stated) Jordy Mercer (because he is the best defensively and can play all three infield positions), Travis Snyder (he is left handed with more power than Presley. I would even expect a possible platoon with Tabata), and then Josh Harrison.
I think Harrison will make it because he is a Hurdle type guy. Harrison plays with energy, and he puts the ball in play. No walks, but contact. He has shown he can do it more than d'Arnaud, and Brock Holt has more options left than either of those guys. Holt's defense is limited to second base, and that position is locked in. Harrison could play third as well as second.
Frankly, I would be happier if they traded Barmes, and started Mercer with d'Arnaud then making the team, but they won't do it. Mercer has never been given a consistent shot at hitting major league pitching. I think he could do as well as Barmes.
Rotation: Burnett, Wandy Rodriguiz, McDonald, Karstens, and McPherson (Cole will join in July replacing whoever is failing of the last three)
Bullpen: Hanrahan, Resop, Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, Free Agent, Free Agent, Victor Black.
Now I am a little out there on this one. Black is clearly part of the future, and I think he becomes the new Grilli this year. However, they may slow play Black in AAA. Either way, I think the bullpen is almost completely reconstructed. Bryan Morris was bad down the stretch this year, and he is not going to break camp with the team. Chris Leroux is a possibility, but not a great one. Tony Watson has done it in the past, but he may sit in AAA if they sign a good lefty Free Agent. Also, Daniel McCutchen is not going to survive the winter, as I bet they cut him from the 40 man. The Bullpen was not that good this year, and I think the Pirates will rebuild it with free agents as they often do. Expect some camp invites and out right signings to create a real bullpen competition. And remember Resop may not come back, so this is wide open.
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