With roughly two weeks left in Spring Training, which Pittsburgh Pirates are seeing their stock rise, and whose is falling?
The Pittsburgh Pirates will play a game that counts on April 3rd against the Boston Red Sox.
That’s roughly two weeks away, which make this a perfect time to take a snapshot look at whose stock is rising, and whose might have taken a stumble during Spring Training thus far. We are not talking about established names such as Andrew McCutchen or Jameson Taillon, rather, players whose final assignments or roles were up in the air or perhaps those who had something to prove this spring.
We’ll start with two obvious choices. Adam Frazier and Jose Osuna are both catching the eyes of Pittsburgh Pirates fans, but each will carry different benefits of successful Springs with them when they leave Bradenton.
For Frazier, Spring Training has cemented what was already suspected. That being that he is, indeed, a Major League-capable hitter. We recently took a deep dive look at Frazier, and came away with the impression that he is already an improved version of Josh Harrison. The Pittsburgh Pirates will likely have no issues trusting Frazier with an important role on the heels of his spring showing, and the onus will now fall on Frazier to continue to keep producing, even if his plate appearances aren’t so numerous.
Osuna has also proven a great deal during this year’s spring sessions. Osuna has now shown that he can be relied upon to serve as one of the first position players available at Triple-A for depth purposes. And that is exactly where he will start – as there is just no spot for him on the 25-man roster. Many fans are upset at that, and clamor for Osuna’s bat to stay with the big club when it travels north. But the Pirates have learned their lesson from putting too much stock in Juan Nicasio‘s excellent 2016 spring. Osuna has also turned himself into a potentially attractive trade chip.
If we think about whose stock has risen during Spring Training, we could look at it abstractly and answer with Gerrit Cole. Cole has pitched in just two innings this spring as of this writing, but there has been no mention of health issues. That on its own is an encouraging sign that Cole may be ready to replicate his 2015 production
If we take a look at which Pittsburgh Pirates are seeing their stock fall during the team’s time in Bradenton, we will find a long-time stalwart and one of the bright stars of its future.
Yes, Tyler Glasnow has struggled mightily at times. He also excelled at times, including his early Grapefruit League performances. What is now clear is that Glasnow cannot start the season in the majors. Any further mental derailment brought about by bad results could seriously impact his development. At the club level, the team will not need a fifth starter through much of April, so it makes sense that Glasnow could start the season at Triple-A Indianapolis and build up some innings along with some confidence.
If Glasnow would have came into Spring Training and turned some heads, it would have answered many questions for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has not done that to this point. It will likely not affect his long-term standing in the organization’s view, but his lackluster spring has certainly disappointed.
One player closely tied to the Pirates rebirth in recent years has been Jared Hughes. With his prodigious groundball rates serving as emblematic proof that the Pirates’ defensive philosophy worked, Hughes became a fixture on the Clint Hurdle-era Pirates.
That time may swirly be coming to an end, thanks to declining play and a horrid spring. Hughes’ production was never as good as it seemed on paper. After taking a hard look at his career, it is easy to realize that this was a secret hidden in plain view.
image courtesy of Fangraphs
Though Hughes maintained his excellent left-on-base percentage over the past two years, his groundball rates have been on the decline, while his strikeout rate remains middling and his walk rate goes up. That’s a deadly combination for any pitcher of any ilk, but coupled with a constantly in-flux HR/FB rate, and Hughes is clearly having a bad time. One look at his FIP numbers tells you just how much he has benefited from the Pirates’ defensive ability.
Though he is undoubtedly still a viable option for the bullpen, his bad spring may tempt the Pittsburgh Pirates into wondering if they could do better. Perhaps most damning against Hughes is the fact that he has minor league options remaining. The best route for all may be to option Hughes to Indianapolis and let him figure things out.