The Pittsburgh Pirates open the 2010 season this afternoon with the major leagues lowest payroll at $35.3 million and extremely low expectations as the Pirates appear primed for an 18th straight losing season.
The Pirates finished spring training with a 7-21-1 record and finalized their roster on Sunday.
As expected the team optioned infielder Steve Pearce to Triple-A Indianapolis and designated infielder Ramon Vazquez for assignment. The Pirates will be on the hook for Vazquez’s $2 million salary as the 33 year old veteran has no trade value. Vazquez batted .176 in spring training.
Opening Day 25 man roster
2009 stats: 75GP – 10hr – 38 rbi’s – .250avg
2010 Outlook: Coming off an injury plagued 2009 season, the Pirates are hopeful for many reasons that Doumit can stay healthy and get back to his level from 2008.
Doutmit is due $3.55M in 2010 and $5.1M in 2011. With a $7.25M club option due in 2012 and the selection of catcher Tony Sanchez (1st round, 4th overall) last June, Doumit could be entering his final season in a Pirates uniform. The 29 year old catcher was actively shopped during the off-season but the Pirates were selling low.
2009 stats: 3hr – 26 rbi’s – .252avg
2010 Outlook: The Pirates value Jaramillo as one of the best backup catchers in the game and believe he has the potential to be more than just a backup at the major league level.
Handles the pitching staff well but it remains to be seen if he has the hitting ability to ever become an everyday player. Jaramillo had a horrible spring, batting .176.
*1st baseman – Jeff Clement
2009 stats (AAA) 119GP – 21hr – 90 rbi’s
2010 Outlook: The former Mariners 1st round pick (2005, 3rd overall) will begin his 1st major league season with the Pirates at a new position.
Moving from catcher to 1st base, it’s been a work in progress for Clement but slowly improved his fielding throughout spring training. However the concern is his hitting. It’s hard to find a scout who thinks Clement can hit at the major league level and be anything more than a utility player.
He struggled at the start of spring training going 1-for-13 but did finish the spring with a .276 average. Clement also showed good patience at the plate. The Pirates are hopeful that Clement will provide some power in the middle of the order. Clement hit 21 home runs in Triple-A last season.
2nd Baseman – Aki Iwamura
2009 stats: 69GP – 1hr – 22 rbi’s – .290
2010 Outlook: Trading a young hard throwing reliever for Aki Iwamura is seen as somewhat of a head scratcher around the league. Iwamura is coming off an injury plagued season and according to most scouts is on the downside of his career.
Could be pushed for playing time by Delwyn Young, if Young is able to build off of his spring training performance, where he hit six home runs and 18 RBIs. Likely won’t end the season with Pittsburgh.
*Shortstop – Ronny Cedeno
2009 stats w/Pirates: 46GP – 5hr – 21 rbi’s – .258 avg
2010 Outlook: Cedeno enters his first full season as the Pirates starting short-stop. Has become a leader in the Pirates clubhouse and did some good things at the plate and on the field last season.
However, the Pirates are concerned with his lack of consistency which led to them signing Bobby Crosby.
Cedeno batted .268 in spring training and has been bothered by a sore back.
*3rd Baseman – Andy Laroche
2009 stats: 150GP – 12hr – 64 rbi’s – .258 avg
2010 Outlook: Established himself as one of the best fielding third baseman in the national league.
Went through a strict training regiment during the off-season with a focus on improving his hitting (line drives)/ Connected with the ball very well in spring training but concerns continue regarding his hitting ability as a corner infielder.
With Pedro Alvarez expected to be called up after Memorial Day, LaRoche will be without a position in the starting lineup. By the end of the season, could become the Pirates starting second baseman. Most scouts view him as a perfect fit at second base due to his defensive skills. Internal discussions were on-going this off-season about moving LaRoche to second base but he didn’t see much time at second during spring training.
LaRoche batted .260 in spring training.
Bench Players (Infielders)
1. Bobby Crosby, 2. Delwyn Young.
*Bobby Crosby was brought in as insurance for Ronny Cedeno at short-stop. Crosby will provide depth at the position and also see time at 1st base.
Crosby batted .223 with 6 home runs and 29 rbi’s in 2009. Crosby was the American League rookie of the year in 2004, hitting 22 home runs but has hit below .237 since 2006.
*Delwyn Young lost his starting position at second base with the acquisition of Aki Iwamura. Most league executives believe a rebuilding team in the Pirates should have stuck with Young and lived with the growing pains.
Young has been Carlos Garcia’s project and Young had a very strong spring. He hit .283 with 6 home runs and 18 rbi’s.
*Starting right fielder Garrett Jones will also see time at first base.
* Left Fielder – Lastings Milledge
2009 stats: 4hr – 25 rbi’s – .279 avg
2010 Outlook: Has developed a close relationship with Andrew McCutchen and is maturing as a player.
Healthy for the first time in almost two years, Milledge appears primed for a breakout season.
Came to spring training in excellent shape along with a strong work ethic and appears determined to prove his doubters wrong.
Milledge batted .308 (16 for 52) in spring. According to scouts, Milledge has the ability to hit 20-25 home runs and that’s the area of his game he must improve on to become a long-term player in the Pirates plans.
*Center Fielder – Andrew McCutchen
2009 stats: 108GP – 12hr – 56 rbi’s – .286avg
2010 Outlook: A budding star, McCutchen has the look of a player who appears primed to make the jump to stardom in just his second season.
Hit 12 home runs in 108 games last season and should increase his power numbers into the 18-23 home run range.
The Pirates catalyst at the top of the lineup, McCutchen has been given free reigns on the base pads and the Pirates must you his speed on the basepads to win ball games. Also covers tremendous ground in center field.
*Right Fielder – Garrett Jones
2009 stats: 82GP – 21hr – 43 rbi’s – .293
2010 Outlook: The burning question for the Pirates this season is whether Garrett Jones is for real. The 28 year old came out of nowhere to hit 21 home runs in just 82 games last season.
Jones will open the season at right field but will also see time at first base if Jeff Clement struggles.
Jones batted .210 in spring.
Bench Players (Outfielders)
1. Ryan Church, 2. John Raynor
Ryan Church provides depth at the right field position in the event that Jones has to take over the starting first baseman job. Church batted .273 with 4 home runs and 40 rbi’s in 111 games last season.
The Pirates second bench outfielder will be John Raynor, a rule-5 draft pick. The Pirates value Raynors versatility who can play all three outfield positions. He’s a solid defensive player but questions remain whether he can hit at the major league level.
Starting Pitchers: 1. Zach Duke, 2. Ross Ohlendorf, 3. Paul Maholm, 4. Charlie Morton, 5. Daniel McCutchen.
*What the Pirates get out of their pitching staffs is one of the biggest mysteries heading into opening day.
The potential is there for a solid top-3 of Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf but the issue for the Pirates during their consecutive losing seasons is that there is no consistency in their pitching staff.
There has not been a scenario where all three of the Pirates top pitchers put together consistent outings through a 2-3 month span. It’s always been a scenario where one is pitching really well while the other is struggling and so on.
If Pittsburgh is to have any hope of being competitive in the first couple months of the season, Maholm, Duke and Ohlendorf are going to have put the Pirates in position to win games.
Duke has struggled mightily since early August 2009 and posted a 6.27 era in the spring. Ross Ohlendorf’s performance in spring training was even more worrisome. Ohlendorf posted a team worst 9.61 era of the 5 starters. Ohlendorf is coming off a 11-10 season in which he was the Pirates most consistent pitcher in 2009.
Paul Maholm who battled injuries through the 2009 season, posted the best era of the team starters (4.30) in spring.
No. 4 starter Charlie Morton has best stuff on the staff but expect an inconsistent season from him. He is still learning to pitch at the major league level but the Pirates view him as having a high ceiling.
The key for him will be progressing into a reliable starter by mid-season. Daniel McCutchen will get the first opportunity as the Pirates No. 5 starter. Word out of the organization is that the team is hopeful that Kevin Hart will eventually win the No. 5 spot by working out his problems in Triple-A.
Relievers: (Closer) Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, Evan Meek, Javier Lopez, Carrasco, Jack Taschner, Hayden Penn.