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How Pirates Position Battles Shape Up Two Weeks Before Opener With Predictions



Pittsburgh Pirates. Chris Owings

It might be hard to to believe, but the Pittsburgh Pirates will begin their regular season slate in one week when they take on the Reds in Cincinnati on March 30.

With one week to go, there are still several position battles and roster decisions that are still unsettled. The Pirates have six more spring training games to get final looks at players still competing for spots.

There has been a little bit of movement since our last check-in on the position battles last week, but not enough to the point where anything is certain.

The Pirates still have to decide who will start at second base, who will be the backup catcher, who will round out the bench and which relivers will fill out the bullpen.

Let’s examine.

Second Base

  • Rodolfo Castro: .227/.244/.318, 10 for 44, one double, one home run, seven RBIs, one walk, 16 strikeouts
  • Ji-hwan Bae: .212/.278/.242, 7 for 33, one double, two walks, nine strikeouts, two steals
  • Tucupita Marcano: .154/.290/.192, 4 for 26, one double, three RBIs five walks, seven strikeouts, one steal
  • Mark Mathias: .227/.414/.273, 5 for 22, one double, four RBIs, five walks, eight strikeouts, two steals

All four players had an opportunity to be the Pirates’ starting second baseman, but none of the four have run away with their chance. Castro and Bae have been playing better of late and Mathias has gotten on base at a high clip since coming over from the Rangers.

Prediction: Rodolfo Castro starts at second base for the Pirates on Opening Day.

Backup Catcher

  • Jason Delay: .167/.333/.417, 2 for 12, one home run, one RBI, one walk, two strikeouts
  • Tyler Heineman: .059/.158/.059, 1 for 17, two strikeouts
  • Kevin Plawecki: .235/.235/.353, 4 for 17, two doubles, two strikeouts

Similarly to second base, nobody has clearly run away with the backup catcher opening. Even so, this one seems like a fairly obvious decision.

Prediction: Kevin Plawecki backs up Austin Hedges.

Bench Bats

  • Chris Owings: .259/.429/.444, 7 for 27, two doubles, one home run, three RBIs, eight walks, seven strikeouts
  • Drew Maggi: .417/.462/.875, 10 for 24, two doubles, three home runs, nine RBIs, nine strikeouts, one steal
  • Canaan Smith-Njigba: .324/.425/.529, 11 for 34, one double, two home runs, nine RBIs, five walks, 10 strikeouts, two steals
  • Travis Swaggerty: .379/.438/.690, 11 for 29, three home runs, 10 RBIs, three walks, seven strikeouts, one steal
  • Miguel Andújar: .182/.243/.364, 6 for 33, three doubles, one home run, four RBIs, three walks, seven strikeouts, one steal
  • Castro, Bae, Marcano, Mathias: stats listed above

Cal Mitchell is out of the equation after getting optioned to Triple-A. Owings, Maggi, Smith-Njigba and Swaggerty have all had strong springs and Andújar has played better of late. Owings could have an inside track to a roster spot thanks to his experience at shortstop.

Prediction: Chris Owings and Travis Swaggerty both break camp with the team.


  • Jose Hernandez: 0-0, 6.48 ERA, 6er/8.1ip, 11 hits, three walks, 10 strikeouts
  • Colin Holderman: 1-1, 4.05 ERA, 3er/6.2ip, four hits, one walk, six strikeouts
  • Yerry De Los Santos: 1-0, 6.00 ERA, 4er/6.0ip, six hits, three walks, four strikeouts
  • Dauri Moreta: 0-0, 1.17 ERA, 1er/7.2ip, seven hits, one walk, 10 strikeouts
  • Tyler Chatwood: 0-0, 16.20 ERA, 9er/5.0ip, eight hits, six walks, four strikeouts
  • Rob Zastryzny: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0er/5.1ip, five hits, one walk, six strikeouts
  • Angel Perdomo: 0-2, 8.22 ERA, 7er/7.2ip, seven hits, five walks, 10 strikeouts

For starters, Roberto Stephenson and Jarlín García are likely starting the season on the injured list. Holderman is seemingly a lock for the bullpen, leaving three spots up for grabs. As a Rule 5 pick, Hernandez is in good position, but will the Pirates add another lefty to the bullpen or rely on one without any big league experience?

Prediction: Holderman, Hernandez, De Los Santos and Moreta fill out the Pirates’ bullpen for now. 

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