The way I see it there are 7 roster spots still up for grabs. The breakdown of who is competing for them is as followed:
Backup Catcher: Michael McKenry vs Jose Morales
Edge: The edge here clearly goes to McKenry. Morales has yet to even play in a game so McKenry is quickly becoming a near lock for the roster.
Bench Middle Infielder: Josh Harrison vs Yamaico Navarro
Edge: Coming into spring training Navarro was the favorite for the backup middle infield job but Harrison has hit well this spring and has held his own while at shortstop. I think the fact Harrison is playing a respectable shortstop gives him a leg up in the competition as the Pirates probably want to see Navarro get consistent playing time in AAA.
Final Bench Spot: Nick Evans vs Jake Fox vs Matt Hague
Edge: I was rooting for Evans at the beginning of spring training but he has really done nothing to stand out. Hague has been hitting well and getting work at 3B so he enters the conversation although I still believe the Pirates want him in AAA getting work at both 1B and 3B. There is the possibility that both Harrison and Navarro will make the team but I think the Pirates are looking for a little more power off the bench and for that reason I am giving the current edge to Fox. Also in this conversation are Brandon Boggs and Gorkys Hernandez but they are long shots right now.
Bullpen: 4 spot available
These four spots could go to any combination of pitchers but I do see some position battles.
Set Up: Evan Meek vs Juan Cruz
Edge: Both of these players could very well make the roster but I think Cruz’s fate largely relies on Meek’s performance. If Meek looks ready to assume the set up role Cruz will have a difficult time making the roster otherwise I think he is a near lock. So far Meek has shown very little so I am expecting him to start the season in AAA opening up the set up role for Cruz.
Lefty Reliever: Tony Watson vs Daniel Moskos vs Justin Wilson vs Doug Slaten vs Jo-Jo Reyes
Edge: Coming into spring training Watson was the over whelming favorite to claim the top (and possibly only) left handed job in the bullpen. Well Watson has been awful this spring opening the door to everyone else but nobody has stepped forward. Slaten and Reyes the two veteran lefties brought in to compete have been just as bad as Watson which I believe basically eliminates them from the conversation. Wilson has been impressive but I get the feeling the Pirates want to see more of him in AAA. Moskos has been quietly putting up a strong spring and I believe has significantly closed the gap between him and Watson. If it was up to me I would take Moskos north but I still see Watson having the slight edge but that could still change.
Utility Role: Chris Leroux vs Daniel McCutchen
Edge: This bullpen role is for someone who can pitch multiple innings and also serve as a set up man if needed. This competition has far reaching consequences because it is very possible the loser could wind up being the player removed from the 40 man roster to make room for Juan Cruz. Whoever loses will have a chance to win the last bullpen spot which I’ll discuss next but chances are one of these two will be off the roster. I think the Pirates feel McCutchen has a chance of making it through waivers whereas Leroux probably won’t and has the higher upside. Right now I’ll give the edge to Leroux.
Final Bullpen Spot: Jared Hughes vs Ryota Igarashi vs Brad Lincoln vs the rest
Edge: I’ll be honset this is the ope spot I don’t really have a good feel for. If Meek rebounds and win the set up role I think Juan Cruz becomes the favorite for this spot but I don’t see that happening. I think Hurdle would like this spot to go to another lefty but the Pirates may have trouble finding one let alone two. The Pirates could opt to keep both Leroux and McCutchen on the roster but I really don’t see that either as I firmly believe one or the other will be removed from the 40 man roster. Hughes is who I would take but the Pirates probably want to keep him in AAA for a little longer. Igarashi has been decent so far this spring but hasn’t established himself. So what does that leave us with: Juan Cruz (via Evan Meek), 2nd lefty, Daniel McCutchen and Brad Lincoln. Personally I think this comes down to Lincoln or a 2nd lefty. I still feel like the Pirates want Lincoln starting so I’ll give the edge for the final spot to Moskos.