Diving into the depths: Pittsburgh Pirates

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Pittsburgh Pirates
Rotation
1. Paul Maholm
2. Ross Ohlendorf
3. Zach Duke
4. Charlie Morton
5. Kevin Hart
6. Daniel McCutchen
7. Brad Lincoln
8. Donnie Veal
9. Chris Jakubauskas
10. Jeff Karstens
11. Tim Alderson
12. Virgil Vasquez
13. Brian Burres
14. Brian Bass
15. Daniel Moskos
Hart will be the heavy favorite to hold off McCutchen for the last spot, but my guess is that he’ll finish the season in the pen. I see McCutchen as the superior option, and Lincoln, Veal and Alderson could all earn shots as the season progresses.
Bullpen
1. Octavio Dotel
2. Joel Hanrahan
3. Brendan Donnelly
4. Evan Meek
5. D.J. Carrasco
6. Javier Lopez
7. Steven Jackson
8. Jeff Karstens
9. Brian Bass
10. Donnie Veal
11. Vinnie Chulk
12. Jack Taschner
13. Chris Jakubauskas
14. Anthony Claggett
15. Daniel McCutchen
16. Wilfredo Ledezma
17. Brian Burres
18. Justin Thomas
19. Daniel Moskos
20. Ramon Aquero
Yeah, there’s going to be a lot to sort through here. Jose Ascanio, Neal Cotts, Craig Hansen and Tyler Yates will also be in camp with the Pirates, but none of them may be healthy enough to compete for a job in spring training.
Dotel, Donnelly and Carrasco should bring stability to the pen, though it still looks like a pretty weak group. I’m penciling Jackson into the last spot, even though he was recently bumped from the 40-man roster.


Catcher
1. Ryan Doumit
2. Jason Jaramillo
3. Luke Carlin
4. Hector Gimenez
First base
1. Jeff Clement
2. Garrett Jones
3. Steve Pearce
4. Brian Myrow
Second base
1. Akinori Iwamura
2. Delwyn Young
3. Ramon Vazquez
4. Bobby Crosby
5. Andy LaRoche
Third base
1. Andy LaRoche
2. Ramon Vazquez
3. Bobby Crosby
4. Neil Walker
5. Pedro Alvarez
Shortstop
1. Ronny Cedeno
2. Bobby Crosby
3. Ramon Vazquez
4. Argenis Diaz
Barring the late addition of Hank Blalock or another first baseman, it appears as though a starting job is Clement’s to lose. If he struggles in spring training, then the Pirates could go to Jones at first base and Ryan Church in right field.
LaRoche is listed on the second base depth chart since there’s been some talk of moving him there once Alvarez is ready. I don’t think it will happen, but it’s possible the Pirates will make the switch come August.
Left field
1. Lastings Milledge
2. Ryan Church
3. Delwyn Young
4. Brandon Moss
5. John Raynor
6. Brandon Jones
7. Jonathan Van Every
Center field
1. Andrew McCutchen
2. Jonathan Van Every
3. John Raynor
4. Lastings Milledge
5. Ryan Church
Right field
1. Garrett Jones
2. Ryan Church
3. Brandon Moss
4. Delwyn Young
5. Brandon Jones
6. Jonathan Van Every
With Church, Vazquez, Crosby and Jaramillo penciled into bench spots, there are just two openings on the Pirates, one of which will go to Clement unless he throws it away this spring. The other should go to an outfielder from the group of Young, Moss, Raynor, Jones and Van Every. Van Every’s chances would be helped a bunch if the Pirates don’t look at either Milledge or Church as a legitimate backup center fielder. Still, Young is probably the favorite.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: